While a stronger Western NSW Local Health District workforce remains a priority for the state government, union officials say more needs to be done to protect nurses who are overworked right now.
Tracey Coyte, an association organiser who's seen firsthand the situation across the Central West, says the current staffing numbers are putting nurses in the regions under immense pressure as they struggle to cope with the demands of the job.
"You get put way out west in situations where there's no doctor on site, maybe you have one other staff member with you, who might not even be a registered nurse," Ms Coyte said.
"That's all well and good while there's no calamity going on, but as soon as there is a situation, and we've seen it happen, we've seen deaths happen in places where there's only one or two nurses."
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However, according to a Western NSWLHD spokesperson, job figures and future funding commitments are strong indicators of continued growth in the frontline workforce.
"We are proud of the fact that our staffing levels continue to grow, despite working in uncertain and unsettling times with a major pandemic," the spokesperson said.
"Within the Western NSW Local Health District there continues to be significant workforce growth."
Job targets committed to by the NSW state government at the last election saw Gladys Berejiklian's administration back a pledge to hire 380 new health care workers, including 271 nurses and midwives for the Western NSW LHD.
At present around 30 nursing roles are being advertised for on the Western NSW LHD, with around 10 of those specifically located in Dubbo and the rest spread around the Central West.
While the numbers represent a small part of the government's overall commitment to provide 5,000 nurses and midwives, representatives of the NSW Nurse and Midwives Association say the government is still falling well short of what is needed.
Ms Coyte said in small towns, the pressure is even worse, with many fearing that they'll let their community down if they take time off.
"They're not coming and doing union training and they're doing double shifts, because they know that the lady who's just come into the emergency department, who's really, really sick, they know her; she's the postmistress, or their child's schoolteacher or the local vet," Ms Coyte said.
"They say, 'I can't go home, I'll stay and do a double shift, I'll look after her'. The community feeling in these small towns is what keeps some of them going and the government is taking advantage of that."
The state government has committed to a $2.8 billion dollar spend over four years from 2019 in order to increase staffing.
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