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Local nurses protest in Sydney

Friday, 31st July, 2009

Local nurses joined their peers in a protest march through Sydney's CBD yesterday.

The NSW Nurses Association (NSWNA) claims the government wants to replace up to 400 qualified nurses with nursing assistants in the State's public hospitals by November 2010. Six local nurses - Leanne Shamrose-Barber, Mandy Schuster, Christine Spangler, Ann-Marie Stenhouse, Brianna Bartley and Dale Sutton - joined the rally of up to 500 nurses.

Nurses took time out from the annual NSW Nurses Conference to stage the rally, uniting under the slogan "right nurse, right job, right place". Ms Shamrose-Barber said nursing assistants had to be additional to staff, not an excuse to cut the number of Registered Nurses. She said the right mix of skills was needed to ensure safety. "We really need more money into nursing," she said. "There's a shortage of nurses all over the State."

The Government had to provide better incentives to attract nurses, she said. "The people serving us food at the meeting probably get paid more than we do." Ms Shamrose-Barber said the rally had garnered a lot of attention from passers-by and the news media. "We need a better voice for nursing. We need to be able to say to the Government 'when are you going to help us?'" she said. But Health Minister John Della Bosca said that any plan to replace nurses was news to him. "I know of no such plan," he told reporters outside the ALP National Conference at the Sydney Convention Centre. "What's important is, any plans for the future of nursing will be the result of consultation with the nursing colleges and nurses union." Mr Della Bosca said the Government wanted to get the skill mix right in public hospitals and would consult with nurses about any changes. "In some hospitals, rosters will be changed. They're being reviewed right now. But, obviously, we'll be making sure any re-allocation of staff is in accordance with all of our agreements with the Nurses' Federation and the other health units," he said. He also played down union claims nurses had cause to be worried about their job security. He maintained that the Government would employ another 900 Registered Nurses and recruit 500 clinical support officers. "(Clinical support officers will) provide support to senior nurses and nurse leaders ... so they can focus on patient care, which is the reason they became nurses in the first place, and they can focus on mentoring and leading other nurses and junior doctors in the care of patients." Acting Shadow Minister for Health Gladys Berejiklian said that the Government's failed policies had led to nurses being offered, and accepting, redundancies - and they were being replaced by the less qualified.

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