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Nurses withdraw threat to elective surgery

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South Australian nurses have withdrawn threats to halt some elective or non-urgent surgery in Adelaide’s major public hospitals in a dispute about overcrowding.

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The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation said Health Minister Stephen Wade had provided extra detail on the State Government’s plans to handle the crisis, particularly the demand on emergency departments.

State secretary Elizabeth Dabars said executive members agreed that industrial action will not be escalated to halt operations although that will be the subject of approval from a meeting of nurses on Friday.

“This has always been about patient safety. That is our driving force,” Dabars told reporters today.

“The government and the minister has committed to opening up 50 general beds with immediate effect and a further 11 mental health beds with immediate effect.

“And in addition, it has committed to maintaining the beds currently open under the winter strategy.”

Dabars said the extra detail and the government’s commitment to provide the necessary staffing and resources was a direct result of nurses “stepping up and advocating for their patients”.

Nurses had planned to try to stop some low category or non-urgent operations from Thursday although the government disputed their ability to take such action.

Wade said repeatedly that no surgical procedures would be cancelled as a result of industrial action.

The minister stood by the government’s management of the current situation, including moving some patients to country hospitals, others to private hospitals and to exploring longer-term solutions such as reactivating the Repatriation General Hospital which was closed by the previous Labor government.

Given the clearer and written commitments from the minister, Ms Dabars said the federation was now confident the government’s actions would provide the necessary “circuit breaker” to ease the pressure on hospital staff and resources.

“We will be taking these new measures back to our members to ensure they are confident these measures are sufficient to protect the safety of patients in our hospitals,” she said.

“If patient safety is at risk again, we’ll take the action we need to take to drive better outcomes for the community.”

Threats by nurses to escalate the industrial dispute were previously supported by ambulance officers and hospital doctors.

Both groups also called on the government to take action, with paramedics particularly concerned at the level of ramping across all Adelaide’s major hospitals.

– AAP

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