NSW Nurses Association Tamworth representative Roz Norman says budget cuts to health will continue to compromise patient care at Tamworth and other regional hospitals.
Mrs Norman suggested state minister for Health Jillian Skinner was “ill informed” if she believed there would be no cuts and no impact on the nursing staff as a result of a $3 billion cut to the state’s health budget.
She suggested senior nursing positions were already under threat and general nursing hours were already being cut.
Mrs Norman said during Ms Skinner’s visit to the region last Friday she implied the hierarchy of the Nurses and Midwives Association were telling members lies when they said nurses would be affected by the massive budget cuts to health.
Mrs Norman said the facts told a different story and suggested it was time Ms Skinner looked at them.
“Very recently nurses working in the Mehi Cluster at Narrabri were asked to find savings by reducing their 10 hour nights to eight hours,” she said.
“That was done because the cluster needed to find $400,000 in labour expenditure cuts to meet their budget.” Mrs Norman said there were other examples too.
“In a sitting of the Industrial Relations Commission the director general of health identified 36 nursing positions that could disappear,” she said.
“The minister responded to that suggestion saying she only knew of one, a nurse manager’s position.”
Mrs Norman said the reality was nurse managers across a number of facilities were suddenly being told their staffing budgets were being cut.
“Often by thousands of dollars,” she said, suggesting the budget cuts posed a real and serious threat to all nursing staff.
Mrs Norman said she wondered who was advising the minister if the writing was clearly on the wall.
“It certainly seems as if Ms Skinner doesn’t have a clue what her department’s bureaucracy are doing to find the budget cuts the government is demanding,” she said. “Cutting nurses in our hospitals will see waiting lists blow out even further and force patients to make do without the nursing support they need.”
A number of local nursing positions, in particular ones of seniority, were being targeted according to Mrs Norman.
“Nurse managers, clinical nurse consultants and educators,” she said. “Those nurses that are essential in all facilities and provide a support structure and mentorship for younger nurses.
“Nurse Unit Managers run the wards and ensure that no patient falls between the cracks.
“Clinical Nurse Consultants and Clinical Nurse Educators will also be targeted, despite the findings of the Garling report that those positions were crucial in allowing nurses to be nurses.”