Narrandera hospital nurses are still subjected to regular threats and abuse; are working long hours in isolation; and left “very vulnerable” due to lack of security staff, according to the NSW Nurses Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA).
The NSWNMA said they are yet to receive a response from NSW Government to concerns over nurse safety and workloads raised in a protest rally in Narrandera in August.
Linda Sommerfield, local secretary for the NSWNMA, said, “Nurses are verbally abused and threatened on a weekly if not daily basis. There have also been a number of [incidents of] physical violence.
“The security guard is rostered for five, eight-hour shifts [per week], leaving nurses very vulnerable when he’s not there.”
Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) – the NSW Government regional body who make staffing decisions for the hospital – denies suggestions they are ignoring concerns surrounding nurse safety and patient care.
“The safety and wellbeing of our nursing staff, patients and visitors is paramount and violence and abuse is not tolerated,” a MLHD spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said Narrandera hospital received $55,300 for a duress alarm upgrades, which was completed in August 2016.
The MLHD spokesperson did not mention any more recent measures taken in response to incidents of verbal and physical abuse against nurses at Narrandera hospital after August 2016.
Nurses are unable to speak out about the details of abuse incidents because they arebound by confidentiality clauses in their contract and code of conduct.
Ms Sommerfield wants to see a security guard present at the hospital after office hours every day and night of the week.
“Do we really have to wait until a nurse gets seriously hurt before something is done?
“We don’t want to be on the front page of the news or on the news headlines, like other hospitals have been in the past with nursing staff recently with being assaulted or harmed.”
“Metro hospitals have fulltime security personal and more nursing staff working.”
While Sydney hospitals have rules around the ratio of nurses to patients that must be in the hospital, country hospitals like Narrandera do not.
NSWNMA are campaigning for the government to mandate patient to nurse ratios across all regional hospitals.
Ms Sommerfield is concerned that no nurse is rostered on to look after the Emergency Department (ED) in Narrandera. Instead, general ward nurses cover ED when required.
“The nurse who leaves the ward to attend to ED presentation works in isolation and a lot of the time it will be for the whole shift. There is no one to relieve them. This nurse is often exhausted and hungry”.
In response to this claim the MLHD spokesperson said, “the hospital has the ability to roster additional staff during busy periods to ensure patient and staff safety”.
Ms Sommerfield said, “nurses are already working excessive hours. “There is no one to call on to cover extra shifts. We have had agency nursing staff working at the facility for a number of months now.”
She said a doctor shortage in town was also putting increasing pressure on Narrandera hospital nurses “Sometimes, there are no doctors on call in town which is the case more often of late.
This then increases presentation to the emergency department and workload of nurses,” she said.
“It’s hard to get doctors here. We are very lucky to have the wonderful doctors we have who work extremely long hours to care and provide a service for our community.”
“[But] people are coming to the hospital sicker because they can’t get into a doctor or cannot afford one to due to financial hardship.
“We are asking for a nurse to be rostered to work in the emergency department independent from the ward and in addition to current staffing levels across all shifts.
“We are very lucky to have such a beautiful hospital and such a great community… but if we lose our hospital, what then?”
NSWNMA are asking the community to contact their local MP to let them know they support their campaign for better staffed country hospitals.
They also direct people to their Facebook page www.facebook.com/safe patientcare
The union campaign coincides with the release of government survey which reveals bullying and harassment by senior managers rife across NSW public hospitals.