The Byron Central Hospital branch of the New South Wales Nurses & Midwives Association (NSWNMA) has said that the hospital is understaffed and the union has ‘continued to raise concerns’ about staffing levels with the health department.
But it says the department is ‘resistant’ to increasing staffing.
The NSWNMA has issued a statement in response to Echonetdaily’s article last week revealing a patient with a bowel obstruction had to wait 13 hours on January 22 for urgent ambulance transport.
And they have effectively given weight to calls by the patient, Sue Harrison, for a non-surgical staff member to arrange transfers and similar issues, thus freeing up overworked doctors and nurses.
NSWNMA delegate Shauna Boyle did say that ‘it is not uncommon to have a lengthy wait for ambulance transfers as the Ambulance Service has triage guidelines to assess priorities.’
But she added ‘while the branch members expect that, similarly, the Australasian Triage Guidelines would have been utilised by emergency department nursing staff to triage and provide treatment to this patient, it does not belie the fact that the NSWNMA branch executive has continued to raise concerns regarding unsafe staffing in the emergency department and inpatient unit since the hospital opened in June 2016.
‘To that end the branch’s Reasonable Workloads Committee is still in negotiation with local and Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) managers about the clinical load [that] the after-hours nurses manager and hospital-in-charge registered nurses carry,’ Ms Boyle said.
‘This means that the after-hours management role is done in conjunction with caring for a patient load, either in the ED or the inpatient unit, and provides no leeway to have that staff member free to respond to just such emergencies as cited in the article without having to jeopardise the care of their own allocated patient load if other staff are unable to take over that care due to work pressures.
‘To date, local and NNSW LHD management remain resistant to this proposal and have only increased nursing staff in the ED over peak holiday and event periods.
‘The branch maintains that if the after-hours management role, either by a manager or an allocated registered nurse, was non-clinical it would increase patient safety by having an experienced registered nurses available to assist in emergencies while fulfilling their managerial duties,’ Ms Boyle said.
Echonetdaily has contacted the Northern NSW Local Health District for comment.