ON TIME: Grafton Base Hospital emergency department.
ON TIME: Grafton Base Hospital emergency department. Adam Hourigan

Nurses union to take local hospital concerns to streets

There are calls for urgent intervention at two Clarence Valley public hospitals, following alleged widespread short staffing and Work, Health and Safety issues being raised by local nursing staff.

And members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA) Clarence Valley branch will take their call to action to the streets of Grafton this weekend.

Members will ride a float in the Jacaranda Festival float procession to raise community awareness of what they say are issues at both hospitals

The union members are seeking action from the Berejiklian government and Northern NSW Local Health District to address their concerns and implement vital improvements across the health service.

NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said members had approached hospital management about their concerns several months ago, but the ongoing issues remained.

"We're aware our members have endeavoured to raise their concerns via the reasonable workload committee process, covering both Grafton Base and Maclean District hospitals, however that committee hasn't met for months, leaving these issues to go unresolved,” said Mr Holmes.

"Disappointingly, we've had reports of excessive workloads and fatigue setting in, as many of the local nurses are forced to work with poor skill mix profiles and are also working short staffed because colleagues who take unexpected leave are not replaced.

"We also know many of the nursing staff are often working through their meal breaks, due to short staffing, and they're being asked to work large amounts of overtime, which is unsustainable.”

Earlier this week, members of the NSWNMA Clarence Valley branch passed a resolution, calling for additional staffing to be prioritised by the Local Health District and the state government.

At Grafton Base Hospital, the branch is seeking one extra registered nurse in the emergency department across each shift; an in charge nurse not allocated a patient load in the general wards across each shift; and more support for nurse unit managers, particularly in the paediatric ward.

Maclean District Hospital is also calling for an additional registered nurse in their emergency department on night duty, and for their night duty in charge nurse to be without a patient load.

A petition seeking immediate improvements has begun circulating in the local community. It will be available during the festival and over the coming weeks.

The Northern NSW Local Health District has been contacted for comment on the union's claims.

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