Nurses on the march over job cuts
About 150 nurses and their supporters braved the searing heat in Lismore on Wednesday afternoon to protest the third round of job cuts being forced upon the North Coast Area Health Service. Other protests were held simultaneously in Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Tweed Heads.
Local Nurses Association secretary Gil Wilson said the protests were about “being forced to fit into unrealistic budget cuts”.
“The people of the North Coast deserve better, but they won’t get it and patient care will ultimately suffer,” he said.
So far 230 positions have been cut across the Area Health Service and another 170 are expected to go.
He described the department’s attitude as a “slash and burn mentality” and questioned the value of employing a public relations person, on a salary of $100,000 a year when front line services were being cut.
“We are losing X-ray escort nurses and wards people and they gave us a spin doctor... I’m sure patients will be very happy to have a spin doctor telling them how good their service is.”
Mr Wilson said the director of nursing at Lismore was now having to split his role between Lismore and Ballina and hospital beds have been replaced with ‘surge beds’ that are only able to be used in high demand periods.
“When they say surge beds, I see bed closures,” Mr Wilson said.
The rally was also addressed by cancer ward campaigner Marshall Fittler and the North Coast organiser for the Nurses Association Jo McKeough.
She read a statement of support from Thomas George and told the crowd how nurses across all areas were given unsustainable workloads.
“We are killing our health workers in our health care service,” she said.
“People are not going to accept a second class service just because they live on the North Coast... It’s death by 1000 cuts and there is no more left to cut.”
There are currently occupational health and safety and staffing disputes in the emergency departments at Tweed Heads, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey and Byron Bay.