23 November 2022

'Bleeding staff interstate': Regional nurses to join fourth statewide strike in less than a year

| Oliver Jacques
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Four nurses hold placards

The second nurses’ strike in Griffith in March 2022. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Nurses across NSW will launch strike action against the NSW Government for the fourth time in 2022, with a 24-hour walkout of hospitals and mass protest rallies planned for Bega, Batemans Bay, Wagga and Griffith on Wednesday 23 November.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) – the sector’s peak union body – has announced thousands of nurses will stop working from 7 am (morning shift) on 23 November until 7 am on 24 November (end of night shift). A skeleton staff will remain in hospitals to keep emergency services functioning.

The NSWNMA says nurses are striking because they are “fed up with inaction by the NSW Government to address widespread staffing and workloads issues”.

The union has asked the general public to join rallies to show their support for hospital staff at the following locations:

Bega – Littleton Gardens from 10 am.

Batemans Bay – Batemans Bay foreshore from 11 am.

Wagga – Victoria Gardens from 9:30 am.

Griffith – CWA Park from 11:30 am.

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Kristy Wilson, the Griffith branch secretary for the NSWNMA, says NSW nurses have the worst conditions in Australia, which is why our hospitals keep losing good staff.

“We are seeing a bleed of nurses across the state borders… our numbers are diminishing more than before. There are no signs of improvement. This government won’t listen.

“A first-year nurse in Queensland would earn $10,000 to $20,000 more than [their equivalent in NSW] in between the hourly rate, salary packaging and bonuses. So why would nurses stay here?”

The union is also pushing for what’s called safe staff-to-patient ratios – laws that ensure each nurse is only responsible for a certain limited number of patients. Without mandated ratios, nurses are sometimes left to deal with seven or eight patients at time, putting lives at risk.

Nurses strike at Wagga Base Hospital

Wagga nurses protested outside the Wagga Base Hospital in September. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

The NSWNMA has already held protest rallies in February, March and September this year. The turnout from the general public has thus far been poor, something Ms Wilson hopes will improve tomorrow.

“Health isn’t something people think about until it affects them,” she said. “People go to hospitals and see they are functioning, but that’s only due to nurses’ goodwill. We are putting in a lot, double shifts, overtime, just to keep patients safe.”

Ms Wilson is less than impressed by the NSW Government’s promises to build new regional hospitals.

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“They keep announcing these new buildings but when you don’t have the staff, what purpose do they serve?”

“I personally feel very undervalued at the minute. There is a lot of discontent among hospital staff. We have to do this four times and the government still won’t get their heads out of the sand. It’s so disappointing.”

NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Michael Whaites, said members were overwhelmingly committed to fighting for widespread reforms to attract and retain the best health workforce in NSW.

“Our members are angry and upset, knowing so many colleagues with years of clinical experience are moving to work interstate or choosing to leave the profession,” he said.

“Despite the NSW government agreeing change is needed, they have failed to acknowledge the urgency, or act to address the issues impacting metropolitan and regional health services.

“Nurses and midwives have endured three years of a chaotic and disruptive pandemic, but they have been overworked and undervalued by this government for much longer.

The NSWNMA confirmed it would continue meeting with the NSW Government to discuss members’ demands for safe staffing ratios and improved working conditions.

A full list of locations and times for the walkout has been released by NSWNMA. You can see it here. You can also find additional information about the strikes here.

Original Article published by Oliver Jacques on Region Riverina.

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