Nurses plead caution from the public ahead of today’s re-opening in NSW

NSW nurses urge caution ahead of re-opening

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) members have urged local communities to exercise caution from Monday, October 11, worried any spike in COVID-19 hospitalisations could overwhelm the health system and its already stretched nursing workforce.

NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said widespread staff shortages were compounded by pandemic fatigue, particularly in regional areas like Northern NSW, where over 160 full-time equivalent (FTE) vacancies have been reported across the Local Health District.

“Prior to the pandemic, many public hospitals were struggling with staff shortages and relying on nurses and midwives’ goodwill to accept regular overtime requests to keep their services open,” said Mr Holmes.

“Unfortunately, that reliance hasn’t dissipated and now we’re hearing there are currently 163 FTE nursing vacancies in Northern NSW, with most in critical care, emergency, or medical and surgical departments,” he continued.

Mr Holmes added, “Text messages are being sent to nurses daily, begging them to start early or work double shifts, to address the shortfall. This is not sustainable, especially when nurses and midwives can access safer workloads, as well as better pay and conditions, over the border in Queensland.

“There’s still a large portion of experienced nurses working in vaccination hubs and testing clinics, while our local hospitals grapple with understaffing and a junior workforce seeking support and clinical guidance.

“As the community looks forward to reintroducing some normality into their lives from next week, nurses and midwives don’t get to share in that luxury. They’ve had very little reprieve since the pandemic hit our shores some 22 months ago, and it’s far from over.”

“This situation also isn’t isolated to Northern NSW. Our members in many other regional hospitals are struggling with understaffing,” added Shaye Candish, NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary.

“We’re aware Port Macquarie Base Hospital has had over 70 FTE vacancies recently, Maitland Hospital has more than 30, while Wagga Wagga Hospital is grappling with 64 FTE vacancies.

“These shortages put enormous strain on the remaining workforce, not to mention the additional
stresses of the pandemic we’re still navigating our way through,” she said.

“Our members have done the hard yards in extremely tough circumstances and there’s still a way to go, but the best way forward is to deliver statewide nurse-to-patient ratios,” Mr Holmes said.

“The NSW Government must listen to nurses and midwives on the frontline and not ignore the fact Queensland, Victoria and Canberra all have ratios. We need a better health system in NSW and to achieve that, you need more staff.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. How can the acute care sector and the aged care sector adopt specific dedicated staffing numbers? There is a significant shortfall in the nursing profession that was chronic and now is acute. This has been predicted for years, and no strategy by the nursing unions, or governments has addressed it. In the absence of a sufficiently sized workforce, calling for fixed staff to patient numbers does not solve the problem. Furthermore it will not lead to a return to work of a large number of nurses who have had enough of the systems and processes in hospitals and aged care. Bureaucracy has contributed to the shrinking numbers of people who want to be nurses, and who want to stay working as nurses. That won’t change.


The importance of the ‘human element’ when training aged care workers

In being so task-oriented, what happens is that the carers can “forget” what is really the most important part of their work - the resident. Read More

1 in 3 aged care workers unvaccinated: Will there be a “mass exodus” of staff on September 17?

With one-third of the aged care workforce still to receive their first jab, and only one month from the mandatory vaccine deadline, will there be the “mass exodus” of aged care staff from the workforce, as the government warned could occur? Read More

The new deal that could lead to a 25% pay rise for aged care workers

A consortium of aged care industry stakeholders has quietly submitted a consensus statement in support of higher wages for aged care workers as part of the Fair Work Commission’s review of ‘work value’ in the sector. Read More