NSW nurses mull stop work action
May 16, 2004
NSW nurses will consider industrial action as early as next week if the health department goes ahead with a plan to open 1,000 more hospital beds this winter, their union says.
NSW Nurses Association general secretary Brett Holmes said nurses were struggling with massive workloads and extra beds should not be opened without more nursing staff.
NSW Health usually opened 400-500 additional beds across the hospital network each winter, but had told the union it planned to open 1,000 more beds this year, Mr Holmes said.
"They somehow think they can open twice as many without any significant improvement in the workloads that nurses are currently dealing with," he said.
The union was demanding a guarantee from NSW Health that there would be more nurses available before any beds were opened.
"The problem is that nurses are already overworked.
"We already know there are problems without this additional load and nurses are at breaking point, they've had enough," Mr Holmes said.
Nurses at Nepean, Royal Prince Alfred, Prince of Wales, Liverpool, Westmead, John Hunter, Canterbury, Hornsby and St George hospitals have already endorsed resolutions authorising possible stop work meetings next week, Mr Holmes said.
Nurses at other hospitals will meet early next week.
A spokesman for NSW Health Minister Morris Iemma said the exact number of extra beds to be opened this winter was not yet known.
He said the government was committed to its ongoing nursing workforce strategy which had seen an extra 3,000 nurses enter the hospital system since January 2002.
An additional 1,000 formerly retired nurses had also rejoined the hospital system through its Nurses Reconnect program, he said.
"If they (nurses) need to talk about some things, let's sit down and talk about them, (but) industrial action is counter-productive," the spokesman said.