NURSES working for the North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) are about to lose their sock allowance.
It's worth less than $1 a week and will scarcely be missed, but the gesture sends out a clear message to nurses, who are beginning a campaign to improve patient care in NSW hospitals.
It's not the loss of the money which galls the nurses, NSW Nurses Association Grafton branch secretary Kassie Packwood said.
“We've just been told, as a cost-cutting measure, (NCAHS CEO) Chris Crawford is going to stop paying us to wear socks,” Ms Packwood said.
“Not all of us get paid it, it depends on what award you fall under, but to save the money and despite OH&S concerns about not wearing socks with closed-in footwear, he's decided to not make it compulsory anymore, so he doesn't have to pay it.
“But it's not about the sock allowance, it's about the attitude to us.”
The nurses know they must gather public support for their claims.
From bitter experience the nurses are aware governments take advantage of the nursing profession's dedication.
“They know nurses can't and won't walk off the job,” Ms Packwood said.
Nurses are taking inspiration from across the border in Victoria, where a simple decision to change the formula of allocating nurses to patients has revitalised the profession.
“The general campaign is for one nurse to four patients, that's what Victoria successfully installed in 2001. They've had 10,000 nurses re-enter the workforce since then,” Ms Packwood said.
As part of their campaign, the nurses are circulating a brochure detailing their claims.
It asks people to email NSW Premier Kristina Keneally and Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt to say they support the new staffing formula.
The NCAHS did not reply to questions about dropping the sock allowance paid to nurses.