NURSES at Lismore Base Hospital have closed beds in protest at staffing shortages and excessive workloads.
"We've taken this unprecedented step to stop the unsustainable amount of overtime being worked by nurses," said Lismore Base Hospital union delegate Gil Wilson.
"Just recently nurses worked over 170 hours overtime in just two days; that's completely unsustainable, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. Just look at the casuals working seven and eight days in a row and permanent part-timers working extra shifts on top of that.
"Beds are being closed to maintain patient safety because nurses no longer feel that's achievable under the current stresses.
"This all comes down to the abominable recruiting practices of the Northern NSW Local Health District ... 14-plus permanent positions and 30-plus relief position that have not been filled.
"We talked to them so many times, we've presented plans that work in other places - Tweed Heads Hospital is allowed to access agency nurses, why isn't Lismore Base?
"Tweed and Coffs Harbour hospitals both have permanent relief pools like Lismore used to have. Every time we asked these questions we're told Lismore is a special case, but it's not fair to the public and it's not fair to nurses."
"The beds we've closed are actually overflow beds that were opened without being funded. They've taken every reserve we've had to open these beds over winter, leaving nothing in the tank."
Vahid Saberi, general manager, Richmond/Clarence Health Service Group said it was the intention of Northern NSW Local Health Network to work cooperatively with nurses to maintain safe patient care at all times.
"Lismore Base Hospital has been in dispute with the NSW Nurses Association and therefore a status quo has been in place. Senior managers of the network are meeting with the nurses' association today with the intention of resolving the dispute," Mr Saberi said.
"It is important to note that there are no bed closures at Lismore Base Hospital, other than those initiated by management, due to patient demand having reduced after a major peak about two weeks ago."