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May 18, 2022

More government support needed for nurses

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Pay and conditions are considerably better for both nurses and paramedics in Queensland and NSW.

What would it take to keep our nurses and paramedics from resigning en masse as the current crisis in the NSW health care system worsens?

The answer, an online forum heard Monday, is compassion – compassion from patients and politicians, compassionate working conditions, and compassionate rates of pay that fairly reflect the nature of the job.

Facilitated by Greens candidate for the seat of Richmond and Echo columnist, Mandy Nolan, the forum gave representatives of local nurses and paramedics the chance to share their experiences of being on the pandemic’s front line.

Crucially, it also highlighted a system of nurse and paramedic pay rates that was already deeply unfair and is now, in the face of COVID-19, little more than an insult.

‘Risking our lives to save lives for $40 an hour – it doesn’t seem worth it,’ one local nurse said in a letter read out to the forum.’

These sentiments were echoed by another nurse, Caitlin, who shared her story during the forum.

‘The emotional, physical, and mental toll it took was incredible,’ said Caitlin, who had to step away from nursing because of the impact it had on her.

‘The PPE that we constantly had to wear… blisters scars… bleeding under my eyes, under my nose… You’d finish your shift and you were just drenched in sweat… You couldn’t replace the liquid in your body quickly enough…’

Kristin Ryan-Agnew the president of the Tweed branch of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, said the system had been ‘broken well before COVID’.

‘We’ve been trying to fix this in the branch for ages,’ Ms Ryan-Agnew said.

‘We knew we were going to have big problems up here two years ago.’

Then when [NSW premier] Dominic Perrottet opened up the state… everyone headed to this part of the country but there was no infrastructure here to manage it.

‘They said they hired all these staff but they were so junior….  They just fell over because they don’t have the experience in our profession.’

Inadequate preperation

Local paramedic Ben Fischer said there had already been massive population growth in the region that had not been adequately prepared for, which the COVID crisis had made dramatically worse.

‘We walk into the hospital with a patient and the nurses just look at us,’ Mr Fischer said.

‘Paramedics are absolutely at the end of their tether. I haven’t got the words to describe how broken they are.’

A key challenge in retaining our local frontline workers is the fact that pay and conditions are considerably better for both nurses and paramedics in Queensland, making it a much more attractive option for local staff.

‘NSW paramedics are the lowest paid paramedics in the country,’ Mr Fischer said.

‘We can go over the border and be paid $12,000 more a year.

‘We haven’t left yet, but it’s a tidal wave waiting to happen. The nurses are going to leave, the paramedics are going to leave. 

‘Once the worst of this is over there isn’t going to be anyone left.’

The Greens are calling on the state government to introduce NurseKeeper, a system of incentives for frontline staff which would see: an immediate bonus of $5,000 to all nurses and paramedics working in the public health system; a ‘pandemic payment’ of at least $60 per shift, in line with the initiative taken by the Victorian Government; and a further $5,000 in 12 months as an additional retention measure and gesture of gratitude.

‘I don’t think they can get away any more with treating nurses and paramedics the way we’re treating them,’ Greens Upper House MP Cate Faehrmann told the forum.

‘There’s just this complete absence of compassion. 

‘The government is completely ignoring what’s going on, and The Daily Telegraph [Murdoch’s Newcorp] is completely ignoring it because they ran the campaign saying ‘let’s open up the doors, Dom’s our man…’

‘It couldn’t be more obvious they’ve let it run down like this…and now we need them to act.’ 

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  1. The Covid has taught us who the important people are in our society.
    They are the Doctors , Nurses, Ambos, Hospital support staff, Teachers, School support Staff, Super Market Workers, Food processor worker, Tranport drvers and Warehouse Workers.
    They are not politicians, beureaucrats, business executives and other cream guzzling fat cats.
    Our priority of values is completely inverted to reality.
    There is no clearer example than Gina Rhinehart being honoured in the Australia Day list for making an obscene fortune from minerals that belong to the Australian people, while the health workers risk their lives to help people for a measly $40 per hour.

  2. Stop making nurses and paramedics do double shifts, overtime, etc to care for people who are unvaccinated by choice and then catch covid.

    Allow them to go home at the end of their shift, and leave the unvaccinated in the hallways to wait if they can’t be treated without holding back health staff against their will.

    This addresses burn out, where a (nevertheless well-deserved) pay rise does not.

    Our health staff are being treated as slaves to mop up the consequences of other people’s bad choices, and it has to stop


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