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Byron Shire
February 24, 2024

Byron hospital chiefs reject nurses’ union safety claims

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Byron Central Hospital management has rejected nurses’ claims that a lack of staffing at the new hospital could put patient safety at risk.

The hospital, opened just five weeks ago, could face its first industrial action after the nurses’ union warned they would consider that course if their concerns weren’t addressed.

(See previous Echonetdaily story at https://www.echo.net.au/2016/07/nurses-fear-patient-safety-new-byron-hospital/

But in a bid to allay concerns, chief executive of the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD), Wayne Jones, told media that staff were continuing to ‘adjust to the new working environment and level of care provided at the new facility’.

Mr Jones said management was ‘very aware of the heightened emotions and transition issues being experienced by our staff as they adjust to the change of two independent hospitals being merged into one state-of-the-art facility that has a higher level of care required, despite a reduction in the actual number of patients’.

‘While year-on-year activity levels between the new Byron Central Hospital (BCH) and the combined activity levels of the old Mullumbimby District Hospital and Byron District Hospital actually shows a reduction in patient activity this year, there have been changes to the models of care and mix of patients,’ he said in a statement.

‘The new BCH has an upgraded Emergency Department from a Level 2 at the Shire’s old hospitals to a Level 3, with the added inclusion of a CT scanner.

‘The inclusion of a CT scanner at BCH has meant that a range of complex presentations that previously would have been transferred to either The Tweed Hospital or Lismore Base Hospital, are now able to remain at BCH.

‘While this is an enormous benefit to the residents of the Byron Shire community, it has resulted in our existing workforce at BCH being asked to care for a different mix of patients that perhaps wasn’t previously required at the former hospitals.

The NNSW LHD will continue to provide support for all our staff at BCH as we bed down the changes and would like to encourage any staff member experiencing problems adjusting to their new workplace to take advantage of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

‘The EAP is easily accessible and can provide support on a range of personal and work related issues. Details of the EAP are available on the NNSW LHD intranet site,’ Mr Jones said.

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  1. My family will be making a formal compaint, to NSW Health, as the safety and health of our matriarch was indeed compromised. This is a reportable incident, happy to supply the detail, if our local Nurses need more evidence to support themselves.

  2. Went to A&E at 6:30PM last night (minor issue with a child, nothing major) and waited about 5-10min at reception with no staff at counter or visible anywhere. Eventually a nurse appeared and checked us in.

    There was only about half a dozen people there waiting, and we ended up leaving (we didn’t need attention after all, kid was fine) after 15min, but no one in the line waiting went in to be looked at in that 15min.

    I don’t know what wait times are like, and we didn’t really need help, but it would have been very concerning if someone really needed attention quickly to be greeted at A&E with an empty reception, and no staff anywhere accessible.

  3. I always believe the nurses. They know when patient safety is being compromised. My neighbour who badly broke her arm and ripped off her shoulder cuff, was recently sent home from the new hospital with pain killers and told to return the next morning to the fracture clinic! She later required extensive surgery. This is just not good enough and not an acceptable level of care.

  4. Mr Jones’ comments make it clear that he does not understand, or has been deliberately misinformed regarding the depth of concern regarding patient safety experienced by the Byron Central Hospital nursing staff. To fob off their concern as ‘heightened emotions and transition issues’ is both patronising and condescending. The vast majority of the nursing staff are senior practitioners with a wealth of collective, multi-skilled nursing experience. In fact, the concerns regarding staffing have bonded the nursing staff from both hospitals as they work together to provide the best care possible in challenging circumstances.

    Not to listen to their very real concerns is, at the least, foolish and the most, dangerous. These are the nursing staff who have provided excellent care for the patients of Byron Shire and beyond for many years. To blithely discount their considered opinion and offer them counselling instead of the additional nursing staff so badly needed, at least until it can be assessed whether this is just a ‘winter surge’ of patients, or whether, in the end, if the In Patient Unit occupancy remains above the approximately 22 funded beds, there is a need to increase the permanent staff, smacks off political expediency and indicates a blatant disregard for the nursing staff, but more importantly, for the communities they serve with such dedication. The population of the Byron Shire deserves better.

    Liz McCall & Shauna Boyle
    NSWNMA Br Secretaries
    Byron Central Hospital on behalf of the combined NSWNMA branches.

  5. Doesn’t this bloke make you sick? Sick for the hard working nurses and sick for patients who will get sicker because this modern day big business automaton promotes the principle of afford it or die. That concept rules out most of society.

    He is a product of universities or other educational institutions that now churn out individuals lacking in empathy and embrace concepts of profit rather than compassion.

    He only promotes EAP because he was told that failing to do so meant he might expose his employer to compensation actions or even personal responsibility!!


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