Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Strike, take two

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Deniliquin nurses will take further strike action this week after negotiatio­ns between the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Associatio­n and state government ‘‘failed to address the staffing crisis’’ in the public health system.

The union has repeatedly warned of ‘rolling strikes’ across the state if the NSW Government refuses to come to the table.

‘‘We are yet to receive any offer from the government on your (nurses and midwives) 2022 Award claim for shift by shift staffing ratios and no further meetings have been confirmed to date,’’ the union said in a statement addressed to union members.

‘‘The Premier and Health Minister’s platitudes are meaningles­s if they refuse to fix this staffing crisis and address your workplace concerns. We must keep pushing for change.’’

Deniliquin NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Associatio­n branch spokespers­on Rhonda Dixon confirmed local nurses will walk off the job this Thursday, from 10am.

Nurses will gather at The Crossing Cafe and only a skeleton staff will remain at the hospital.

Ms Dixon said this week’s strike is based on the same principles as the ‘Stop telling us to cope!’ campaign last month.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard told the ABC last month’s state-wide strike was ‘‘disappoint­ing’’, adding his department would continue to negotiate in good faith. Nurses are calling for tenable nurse to patient ratios and a proper award (pay) increase of 2.5 per cent, which was frozen by the Berejiklia­n government in 2020.

‘‘It has reached a point where it is hard to maintain patient safety,’’ Ms Dixon told the PASTORAL TIMES at the last strike.

Ms Dixon said the nurse to patient ratio of 1:4 has been inadequate for many years, with no change despite repeated attempts to sway the NSW Government over many years.

And there is no formal ratio agreement in either maternity or emergency.

Deniliquin Hospital has been one of the hardest hit hospitals, with 10 beds closed ‘‘temporaril­y’’ in October; it coincided as 10 nurses who refused the COVID-19 vaccine mandate were stood down by Murrumbidg­ee Local Health District.

The beds remain closed nearly six months later.

Pressure on staff was also exacerbate­d due to the extra workload of the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years. Ms Dixon said it’s not uncommon for some department­s to be operating well over the desired ratios — at Deniliquin, and other hospitals around the state, exhausting workers.

She added low pay rates do not help the situation — that graduates are unlikely to remain in the job, and agency nurses are unavailabl­e because they have been prioritise­d in COVID testing and vaccinatio­n clinics.

‘‘In our (Deniliquin’s) medical ward we’re doing okay, but that’s only because they have closed 10 beds at Deniliquin Hospital — and that’s supposedly only temporary.

‘‘Maternity and emergency have no nurse to patient formula at all, and emergency numbers have been skyrocketi­ng over a number of years — partly because of the lack of access to doctors (GPs).’’

The Victorian and Queensland government­s have more appropriat­e nurse to patient ratios for improved healthcare, and have also introduced a COVID allowance.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives Associatio­n is now seeking similar commitment­s from the NSW Government. Local nurses have taken strike action for improved conditions five other times since 2011, in 2019, 2015, 2013 and 2011, and early 2022.

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