Hospital crisis: Nurses threaten walkout over bed shortage

  1. Hospital crisis: Nurses threaten walkout over bed shortage
    May 31, 2004

    A CRITICAL bed shortage at Wollongong Hospital has forced Illawarra Health into damage control.

    Chief executive officer Liz Gale will hold crisis talks today in the wake of a threatened walkout by nursing staff.

    Emergency doctors also are reported to be deeply distressed by the bed situation.

    Today's meeting is in direct response to an email to key personnel from the area's director of emergency, Andrew Bezzina, highlighting the intense pressure under which emergency department staff have been working in recent weeks. It's believed Dr Bezzina said he and his staff had "had enough".

    Last week, a deputation of emergency nurses told the emergency department's senior nurse unit manager they, too, were no longer prepared to work under the conditions that exist at the hospital.

    The Mercury has also had a number of calls from ambulance officers frustrated by the lack of beds.

    They report spending as long as four hours waiting to transfer patients from their ambulance stretchers to a hospital bed, with the resulting gridlock forcing as many as eight ambulances at a time off the road.

    A source within Wollongong Hospital has revealed former chief executive officer Jon Blackwell estimated last year that the hospital needed an extra 100 beds.

    Mr Blackwell worked out the figure by comparing Illawarra Health's beds per population with the number available at Central Coast Area Health Service, where he worked as CEO before briefly taking on the top job at Illawarra Health.

    In his time in the Illawarra he secured a further 33 beds for Wollongong Hospital, but the overall shortage continues to bite and is expected to worsen this winter.

    A recent announcement that 12 extra beds would open in late June to cope with the winter rush would not be enough to relieve the pressure, the hospital source said.

    The Mercury reported in February patients were waiting in corridors for up to 45 hours while two wards remained empty.

    Dr Gale responded then by saying one of the empty wards was awaiting the removal of asbestos, and the other, which was being used to house nuclear medicine, would be renovated in July.

    She said yesterday one of these wards was still closed, awaiting a complete refurbishment. The other was not being used as a ward. It was now the hospital's transit lounge, where patients awaiting discharge or transfer are held.

    May had been a busy month in the emergency department, resulting in a peak demand which usually did not start until June or July, the health boss said.

    She put this down to an increase in gastroenteritis, a nursing home bed shortage, high levels of trauma resulting in a 20 per cent increase in surgery, the colder weather, and a reduction in bulk billing by general practitioners.

    Admissions to Wollongong Hospital's emergency department were up 16 per cent on last year and there had been a nine per cent increase in admissions by ambulance.

    Dr Gale does not believe last month's decision to have ambulances bypass Bulli Hospital was having any effect on Wollongong Hospital.

    Strategies to improve patient flow would reduce the pressure on emergency department and in-patient beds, and a new position of workload support manager had been created to assist emergency nurses. She said the new recruit was due to start in a week.
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  3. by   Farkinott
    Maybe this story should be in nursing news.
  4. by   Dixielee
    I am not an Aussie nurse, but I am up in the middle of the night and can't sleep, so I am reading everything of I like the way you guys talk! Anyway, this article sounds like it could have been written about any number of US hospitals as well. And they are hiring a "nursing workload manager". Give me a break! That is just what every ER nurse needs, another manager. I did a travel assignment to a hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas last year. It was the worst job I ever had and the scariest in terms of possibly losing my licence. They would never divert an ambulance no matter how bad we were backed up in the ER. One day, we had patients lined up and down the halls, no beds in the hospital to transfer patients to, ICU's were full, PACU was holding post op patients that had nowhere to go. The ER docs said stop!Our manager was on the phone to administration saying we could not take any more patients, that the ambulances could not get their patients off the cots because we were out of stretchers and had no place to put them and we were drowning. In the infinate wisdom of management, they said they would SEND MORE STRETCHERS!!!!! In their minds, the problem was solved.
  5. by   oramar
    There is big difference between the Aussie nurses and US nurses in above two post. The Aussie nurses took action and threatened a walk out. It sounds like the US nurses just took the pounding and took no action. Please, someone tell me I am wrong.
  6. by   Hellllllo Nurse
    Quote from oramar
    There is big difference between the Aussie nurses and US nurses in above two post. The Aussie nurses took action and threatened a walk out. It sounds like the US nurses just took the pounding and took no action. Please, someone tell me I am wrong.
    Sorry, but I think you're right.
  7. by   Dixielee
    The hospital I mentioned in my post WAS a unionized hospital. I found out just as I was leaving that place that there is a procedure to follow if you feel you can't give safe care. You must notify your charge nurse in writing (heck, I was the charge nurse), then go up the chain of command until you get relief. WELL, if the ER manager couldn't get any relief, my filling out a form and filing it certainly was not going to do anything. Outside of New York and California, I don't think unions are very strong in hospitals. Why, I don't know. I don't know what the difference in mentality between the Aussies and the US nurses stems from. But, I can't imagine a time when we would walk out as much as I would like to. It seems like when things are strained the most, you are the least able to walk away from it. I thnk there are way too many nurses who have a martyr attitude and think that they should just take anything that comes to them without question. I am glad to see more men coming into the profession as I think they are less likely to put up with a lot of the same crap that women have put up with for generations. Maybe there is hope for change.