The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) SA Branch have claimed that staff shortages have continued to severely compromise patient care at South Australia’s major regional hospitals.
The ANMF say the shortages have left nurses with little choice but to stop some admissions to hospital beds in accordance with staffing availability.
A joint review recently conducted by the ANMF SA Branch and Country Health SA led the ANMF to the view that Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Mount Gambier hospitals have an insufficient number of nurses to cater for patient care needs.
According to the ANMF SA Branch, Country Health SA has refused to increase staffing to combat the problem despite the findings of the review. ANMF SA Branch CEO Professor Elizabeth Dabars says the union has been left with little choice but to support its members to take industrial action.
“This situation is simply unacceptable—not only for our overworked regional nurses but for the hundreds of patients in their care,” she said.
“There’s a known staff shortage—it’s been uncovered in a formal review and over several months of site visits and consultations with nurses at all levels in each site. So, why then are our country nurses being left in a compromised position whereby they’re essentially being forced to provide an inadequate level of care to hundreds of patients?”
However Country Health SA say the joint review showed that staff levels were sufficient, and have called on the ANMF to cease industrial action.
“Staff numbers and nursing hours are set out in the current Nursing/Midwifery (South Australian Public Sector) Enterprise Agreement 2016, which was agreed to by the ANMF,” said Country Health SA in a statement.
“Country Health SA believes the staffing levels in the Agreement provide for safe and effective care of patients, and would like to reassure all South Australians that our country hospitals will continue to provide the best possible care.
“Country Health SA calls on the ANMF to comply with the Agreement, cease industrial action, and engage in further discussion.”
But Ms Dabars said members have been working well above their contracted hours to cope with demand.
“Overworking our nurses is not a sustainable solution—it’s a practice that is not only taking its toll on the health of nursing staff, it presents a ticking time bomb when it comes to patient safety,” Ms Dabars says.
“Unless Country Health SA is prepared to come to the table with an acceptable solution, ANMF members across all four regional sites will launch industrial action next week.”
The action will result in limiting services to regional patients, while nurses service only the number of beds to match the available staff numbers and their contracted working hours.
The South Australian Employment Tribunal have issued interim orders that the ANMF ceases industrial action in relation to the closing of beds.