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Nurses rally at new Maitland Hospital amid 16-hour shifts

By Paige Busher
Protest: NSWNMA secretary for Maitland Kathy Chapman rallied at the new Maitland Hospital alongside other nurses on International Nurses Day. Picture: Marina Neil

Nurses rallied outside John Hunter Hospital and the new Maitland Hospital for the fourth time this year, calling for better conditions and mandated nurse-to-patient ratios on International Nurses Day.

Members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association rallied on Thursday calling for a pay rise and mandated 3:1 nurse-to-patient-ratios.

"We are under paid, we do not have safe staffing ratios, we are overworked, exhausted and we have seriously had enough," said NSW Nurses and Midwives Association John Hunter branch secretary Rachel Hughes.

"International Nurses Day is one of the most important days in the year for us and we just want the government and the community to know that we are so broken and we need them to listen to us because they are going to have no nurses left if they don't start listening.

"They think if they keep ignoring us we will go away but we are not going anywhere, we are too frustrated to go anywhere. We will continue to rally, fight, make noise, whatever we have to do to make them listen.

"Give us something. Just let us know that we are being heard and they actually give a damn."

No resolution

This marks the fourth time nurses have rallied this year to call for mandated ratios and a pay rise.

"The only thing we have heard from the government is that they understand there is issues, but they haven't done anything to fix the issues. Don't say you understand there is an issue and then do nothing about it," said Ms Hughes.

"It is frustrating that we are not getting anywhere, things are only getting worse."

It comes one week after midwives rallied at John Hunter Hospital.

"Exhausted" nurses also rallied at the new Maitland Hospital on Thursday.

NSWNMA Maitland branch secretary Kathy Chapman said there have been no improvements at the new Maitland Hospital, despite continuous calls from nurses.

"It's International Nurses Day and usually it is a time for celebration, however there is not much celebrating going on in our hospital," said Ms Chapman.

"We look like everything is shiny but things are still not okay on the inside."

New hospital, old problems

Ms Chapman said since the new hospital opened staff have been under added pressure.

"People see this beautiful new hospital but we have picked up extra geographical areas. Now a lot more ambulances are coming to our hospital. We have got more of an ageing population as well," she said.

For every roster that comes out nurses at the new Maitland Hospital can expect to do two double shifts a fortnight, which can be up to 16 hours.

"The alternative is we leave someone's relative, brother or mother without the proper care," said Ms Chapman.

"When I was working in the emergency department looking after seven or eight patients I could see a man in a bed which had dried urine and I had to contemplate if I spend half an hour trying to fix him or keeping two other people alive. I didn't get there until later in the shift so that person had been sitting in that before I got there.

"When you see that you wonder who took my vocation away from me?

"If we had ratios patients might get their teeth cleaned, their pad changed, a shower instead of a wipe."

Six senior new Maitland Hospital ED nurses have quit this year because of the strained workload.

"We have new grad nurses who are only one year out now trying to do the work of an experienced triage nurse without the support. They are not getting the training that they need because there is no nurses to train them," said Ms Chapman.

"We have a duty of care for the safety of our patients to keep on fighting."

A spokesperson for NSW Health said the current ratio system of "nursing hours per patient day" flexibly considers the number of patients, their complexity and their needs.

The spokesperson said the state government and NSW Health will continue to meet with the union to find a resolution.

Nurses feel unsafe

The Newcastle Herald reported on Saturday that a junior nurse resigned from the Calvary Mater Hospital after being assaulted in the emergency department.

Member for Wallsend Sonia Hornery moved a notice of motion in parliament on Thursday calling on the minister for health to address staff shortages and prioritise security for nurses.

"The 2012 audit showed alarming security risks and called on the government to take action, however nothing has changed," she said.

"In 2019 the minister conducted yet another review, with former health minister Peter Anderson looking at what was needed. I met with Peter and even he has said it is obvious more security staff was needed.

"But here we are again, another review completed, but still without a single additional security officer having been employed at the John Hunter or Mater Hospitals."

Ms Hornery said nurses have reported numerous injuries to her office in the past months.

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Dive Deeper:
LETTERS: Why nurses and midwives fear for their registrations
Newcastle Herald readers have their say
Script saga: 'We shouldn't have to fight this hard'
Mayfield woman Emma Warren said she should not have had to fight so hard to get a repeat prescription.
'The longer this drags out, the longer people suffer': Advocates for Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill
NSW is the only state in Australia that does not allow assisted dying for terminally ill people.
Calls for changes to Victorian hospital policies following death of 8yo Melbourne girl
Amrita Lanka's story triggers calls for change in the health policy, with families now sharing their own horror experiences in…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
GP Access is effective, efficient, economical and saves Australia's health system millions
A new level of federal-state collaboration is needed to keep this crucial service.
International Nurses Day: The North East 'angels' who are at the cutting edge of care
For International Nurses Day, we sat down with the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust's senior nursing team to talk about how…
Get all your news in one place