Stop telling us to cope: local nurses join strike, but can only walk away for one hour

Forbes' Nurses and Midwives Association members have joined a State-wide strike, even though they felt they could only walk off the wards for one hour without compromising patient care.

They're calling on the NSW Government to take action on the public hospital staffing crisis, ensuring nurse-to-patient ratios, improved maternity staffing and fair pay.

Local nurses' association member Kristin King says smaller hospitals, including Forbes, have not been given the funding for extra staff to improve nurse-to-patient ratios.

And it's placing pressure on our local staff, says the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association.

Nurses from across all wards at the Forbes Hospital including community based care, renal, palliative care, midwifery and emergency wards went on strike on Thursday - but only for an hour because to walk off the wards for any longer would leave patients at risk.

"We're here to make sure the community knows that things aren't okay and it is not good enough to just to say keep on coping because it is putting them at risk, their community at risk, their families at risk," local nurses' association member Chloe Scheul said.

"That's what we are fighting for today."

Local association members limited their industrial action to refusing to answer outside phone calls on Thursday, picking up emergency phone lines to ensure nobody was placed at risk.

Nursing staff refused to do overtime, saw only essential community patients and didn't complete any non emergency surgeries on Thursday.

It's not even been two months since the most recent industrial action and the NSWNMA was again rallying outside of parliament house on Thursday, campaigning to improve nurse-to patient ratios.

Ms Scheul said that even at the most recently negotiation, the government was "just listening to the union's problem and walking away".

The system was struggling over the last few years, with everyone working in the system knowing that, Ms Scheul said, but COVID-19 has really highlighted it and put so much increased demand on resources that were already barely sufficient.

"For nurses to be outside hospitals instead of inside, is a big deal."

"We put ourselves second, we give up our breaks, we do whatever we can, we do overtime for the patients because we care, because we want to provide them with the best care possible," Ms Scheul said.

"We make difficult decisions to advocate for our patients every day and this is one of them. We are advocating for safety and better health care for our patients with these ratios."

This is more than just a state government problem, Ms King said and that if the federal government realises that they are not budgeting enough for a state and the health system is cracking because of it, some of the onus is on them as well to supply enough, or give a boost.

"Nurses will worry about who's inside, they'll worry about who is going to come in an ambulance and be treated appropriately, not inappropriately because there's not enough staff about," she said.

"So every time we come to work we walk home and think we haven't done what we should have done, we've done the bare minimum. Some days we do have enough staff and that's lovely, but that's not the norm.

"The federal government needs to kick in as well and help the NSW government out to supply enough staff to the high standard of hospitals they expect."

Both said that many nurses get into the industry because they care and want to improve people's well-being and to give back to the community.

"The fact that there was 500 more resignations last year than on average shows how critical things have become. These people who give and push for others are saying they can't do it anymore," Ms Scheul said.

"We don't have a shortage of nurses out there, we have a shortage of funds to employ them," Ms King said.

NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA) branch members also held public rallies in Bathurst, Cowra, Dubbo, Orange, Blayney, Trangie and Warren as part of the statewide actions, to again call for nurse-to-patient ratios and improved maternity staffing on every shift.

What do you think?

Send a letter to the editor by filling out the online form below.

Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: