NSW Nurses Association members demonstrate outside Lismore MP Thomas George’s office. NSW Nurses Lismore Base Hospital branch secretary Gil Wilson (in blue shirt) says the government’s refusal to provide minimum nurse-to-patient ratios to rural hospitals was creating a two-tiered health care system.
Story and photo Dominic Feain
Nurses promised to fight ‘all the way’ for adequate nurse-to-patient ratios in rural and regional areas, picketing close to 50 MPs offices last Friday.
Far North Coast nurses gathered outside the offices of Lismore MP Thomas George, Ballina MP Don Page, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and Tweed MP Geoff Provest calling on the government to negotiate a new work and conditions agreement.
The nurses’ current agreement runs out at the end of the month and the government has made an offer, but threatened to call on the Industrial Relations Commission to make up a new award if it’s not accepted ‘as is’, rather than negotiate with nurses.
NSW Nurses Association Lismore Base Hospital branch secretary Gil Wilson accused the government of stonewalling and using its ‘dictatorial industrial relations laws’ despite the fact nurses have accepted the pay offer without question.
‘We are here for our patients, not ourselves,’ Mr Wilson said outside Lismore MP Thomas George’s office on Friday.
‘We accepted the 2.5 per cent pay rise without question so we could concentrate on these unfair patient ratios.
‘Why should healthcare in this postcode be different from healthcare in any Sydney postcode?
Mr Wilson said the government’s refusal to provide the same minimum nurse-to-patient ratios to rural hospitals and other services was effectively creating a two-tiered health care system.
‘That’s why we’re here to see our good mate Thomas (George), because he has supported us in the past.’
Mr George had apologised to nurses in advance saying he had prior engagements, but told nurses he would meet with them this week.
‘This government is stopping us giving our patients the same care as city patients and it is putting patients in rural communities at risk,’ Mr Wilson said.