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WCH nurses launch action over 'dangerous' staffing conditions

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Nurses have launched action in the South Australian Employment Tribunal in a bid to improve staffing levels they say are creating “dangerous conditions” at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital emergency department.

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Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary Elizabeth Dabars said members were seeking orders to fix “alleged contraventions” of their enterprise agreement.

“Our members have been unable to adequately address these breaches with management and have had no option but to seek this high-level application to protect this vulnerable cohort of patients and provide the quality care they deserve,” Dabars said.

“This move is a crucial next step in the right direction and a direct reflection of the advocacy skills of WCH nurses and midwives seeking positive change for their working conditions and most importantly the safety of paediatric patients.”

It comes after frontline WCH doctors yesterday spoke out, saying a chronic lack of resourcing and staffing was putting children’s lives at risk and that urgent action must be taken before “the system fails completely”.

The ANMF said the enterprise agreement breaches related to:

The base staffing requirement of one nurse to three patients at all times
The requirement for the Dedicated Resuscitation Team to include one senior nurse with a recognised emergency nursing qualification
The requirement to maintain a Shift Coordinator in the Emergency Extended Care Unit
The requirement to maintain two Level 2 Registered Nurses on every shift
The requirement to maintain a Mental Health Nurse on every shift.
Treasurer Rob Lucas said he had been advised the Women’s and Children’s Health Network “does not accept the claims made in the ANMF statement”.

“When staffing issues were raised in March this year, I am advised, following discussions between WCHN management and the ANMF, there has been an increase in nursing staff at the WCHN,” he said.

“Given the matter is subject to an application before the SA Employment Tribunal, these issues will need to be resolved in that particular forum.”

A group of emergency department medicos yesterday took the unusual step of publicly voicing their concerns, declaring they’re at their “wits’ end” over a shortage of treatment spaces and medical under-staffing.

They say the WCH paediatric emergency department has just 19 treatment spaces when it should have 32 according to national guidelines and interstate comparisons.

They also say there’s a shortage of 10 full-time training medical officers compared to the average of comparative interstate hospitals.

“Executive are placing all of the clinical risk on the clinicians by leaving the department massively understaffed,” WCH emergency department doctor Davinder Gill said.

“Clinicians are stretched beyond their limit.

“Patients shouldn’t be subjected to this risk.”

The concerned doctors say the situation is “untenable” and are calling on the WCH Board and the Premier to intervene and “fix the situation before it’s too late”.

Premier Steven Marshall yesterday told reporters “we obviously are always reviewing the resources that we have in SA Health”.

“If there are specific issues that need to be addressed then we’re happy to look at them, but I have absolute confidence in the management of the… Women’s and Children’s Local Health Network and also, of course, in their board,” he said.

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