EDITORIAL: Mental health conversation must go on
MENTAL health nurses in Albury have introduced work bans as a protest against stretched working conditions.
The industrial action by the community health staff was announced yesterday.
It’s a response to what the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association believes is a lack of concern by the Murrumbidgee Local Health District, which employs the nurses at Albury hospital.
The association and health district both stressed the work bans would not affect patients.
Association assistant secretary Judith Kiejda wants the health district to fully replace all nurses on annual leave.
“Currently the work just gets allocated to the remaining staff, which is putting enormous strain on them and the service,” Ms Kiedja said.
“I am advised that in recent times 300 patient appointments were cancelled as a result.
“That is an unsafe situation for the patients involved and possibly even for the wider community.”
The indefinite work bans are on attending non-clinical meetings, typing meeting minutes, doing data entry and using the sign-in book.
The nurses will return to their offices at the end of shift from outreach and have two staff on every home visit.
Another association representative Linda Griffiths, said the situation was brought to a head by a plan this month to remove three contracted nurses and not replace them.
“They are just completely frustrated at the lack of an appropriate outcome from management and its budgetary decision,” Ms Griffiths said.
She said better resourcing for community mental health nurses would reduce the demand on Nolan House and hospital emergency departments.
“It’s not rocket science — if you spend money upfront and in the community with patients they do not end up blocking up the emergency department,” Ms Griffiths said.
In a prepared response provided to The Border Mail, the health district’s director of mental health and drug and alcohol, Robyn Manzie, said her organisation was trying to resolve the dispute.
“Murrumbidgee Local Health District is working with the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association in relation to staffing concerns raised by nurses at Albury community mental health services,” Ms Manzie said.
“The MLHD has in response put a proposal to the association which would comply with their request for back-filling of all nursing leave.”