NSW nurses close more than 350 beds


Vincent Morello

Nurses have closed more than 350 hospital beds across NSW as their industrial action enters its second week.

Another 14 hospitals on Monday voted to join the action to put more pressure on the state government to reduce nurse-patient ratios.

But the government hasn’t responded, saying negotiations will be suspended until the beds are reopened.

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Nurses at Nepean and Hornsby hospitals in Sydney, and John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, all voted to start closing beds from Monday.

The other 11 hospitals are in rural areas, the NSW Nurses Association’s acting general secretary Judith Kiejda told AAP.

“Fourteen more hospitals have come on board this morning, so that number (of beds) is likely to increase,” she said.

As of Monday evening, the nurses had closed 355 beds across NSW.

The union wants the state government to introduce a ratio of one nurse to every four patients – the current standard in Victoria.

“Everybody knows that the demand on the system is increasing every year, but there’s no commensurate increase of staff,” Ms Kiejda said.

Emergency departments, critical units, cancer care, pediatrics and maternity wards are exempt from the industrial action.

Nurses are only closing beds in non-urgent care areas of a hospital and will re-open them when patients are admitted to the ward.

“So, when a person goes home and there’s no emergency patient waiting to go into that bed, then the bed will be closed,” Ms Kiejda said.

“Obviously we can’t close a bed where there’s a critical need to keep it open.”

The union said its actions so far had resulted in few disruptions, affecting only some patients waiting for non-elective surgery.

Ms Kiejda said there had been no public backlash as a result.

“I don’t think the community would appreciate us closing beds if they were in dire need.”

Ms Kiejda also acknowledged the government had been slow to respond.

“Well, it’s been effective in other states. It’s the first time we’ve ever done it in New South Wales, so time will tell.”

On Monday, NSW Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt reiterated her refusal to negotiate with the union while industrial action was under way.

Her office declined to give an update on the situation and re-released a written statement from last week.

“The government wants to continue to have good-faith discussions with the Nurses Association, but the government is not able to do that in an environment of industrial action,” the statement read.

“It is important to remember that Victoria is the only state to use a ratio system.”

Source: www.smh.com.au