Health service says overstaffing, union says nursing cutbacks compromising care

CUTS to nursing shifts at Canowindra, Nyngan, Coonamble and Condobolin hospitals is traumatic for staff and compromising patient care, according to the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association regional organiser Darius Altman.

However, Western NSW Local Health District (LHD) acting chief executive Lindsey Gough rejected the union’s claims, saying it had been identified some rural health services were overstaffed.

Mr Altman says he has met with nurses affected by the cuts this week.

“I called a meeting and 15 of the nurses affected by these cutbacks turned up. They are very concerned,” he said.

“I fear this is death by a thousand cuts to our services.”

Mr Gough said as part of the Strategic Health Services Plan for 2013-1016, securing of future health services meant allocating resources differently and adopting new ways of working.

“We need new models of care that improve access, ensure equity and make better use of the available workforce,” he said.

Mr Altman said some cutbacks were not sustainable and with the LHD identifying indigenous services as needing a stronger focus, he was surprised there had been cuts to nursing shifts in areas where the indigenous population was affected.

“This is not closing but widening a gap in services,” he said.

Mr Altman does not accept the LHD argument patient care would not be compromised. 

“We are advising our members, with their time now limited, to care for their patients. They should not be doing cleaning or administrative work,” he said.

Mr Altman hoped the affected communities would rally behind their nurses.

“We want people to write to their local member and their federal member as well, to say this just isn’t good enough,” he said.

Mr Altman is bracing himself for more cuts to nursing shifts in the LHD.

“We still have another 18 hospitals to go. After speaking with our nurses, the staff at Canowindra, Coonamble and Condobolin have voted to fight this decision,” he said.

In the last financial year the WLHD experienced a budget blowout of $19 million.

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