Westmead hospital staff urge action from NSW Premier and Health Minister

NSWNMA Westmead Hospital Branch Secretary, Timothy Blofield, pictured with nurses from Sydney’s Westmead Hospital. Image Courtesy of NSWNMA

More than 200 staff at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital have signed an open letter addressed to the NSW Premier and Health Minister, demanding the immediate fix of staffing and accessibility issues at the site.

Emergency nurses and registrars, as well as administrative, security and orderly staff, were among those to put their name to the letter, which addresses multiple issues concerning safety for both patients and workers at the hospital.

NSWNMA (ANMF NSW Branch) members also gathered for a media doorstop outside the hospital yesterday to raise public awareness of their concerns.

Additionally, nursing, medical, and allied health staff met with Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) Chief Executive Graeme Loy to discuss the issues. However, while some progress was made, NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes said the situation at Westmead remained “unacceptable”.

“Management taking the time to meet with staff yesterday afternoon to discuss solutions is a step in the right direction, but it will mean little if there are no actions taken soon as it is imperative that changes are put in place to fix the dire situation at Westmead Hospital,” Mr Holmes said.

“Expert advice is also required to develop effective strategies that will address the access block and relieve congestion that builds regularly in the ED. They need some longer-term strategies implemented, rather than band-aid solutions.”

While Mr Loy referred to the issues raised at the meeting to a working group at the local level beneath the WSLHD, Mr Holmes said the urgency of the situation required higher intervention, as per the demands of the staff’s open letter.

“While our members will try to work with local management on this, they are concerned the working groups will not deliver the changes that are needed within a suitable time frame,” he said.

“The Health Minister needs to step in and provide assurances that the Local Health District will get the additional funding needed to match the growing demand being placed on this facility.”

NSWNMA’s Westmead Hospital Branch Secretary, Timothy Blofield, also said that issues have been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the junior level of experience within the workforce onsite.

“These working conditions have taken a massive toll on the wellbeing, mental health and morale of all the ED staff, with increased amounts of sick leave, overtime and sadly, even resignations,” Mr Blofield said.

“A surge in COVID-19 presentations thanks to the recent Delta outbreak has been an extra burden, with increased risks and safety concerns piling on to an already overwhelmed department.”

The open letter from the staff contains several recommendations to improve working conditions at the hospital, including:

  • A staffing ratio of one nurse to three patients, and one to one ratios for nurses working within wards with resuscitation bays.
  • Higher staffing levels across morning, afternoon and evening shifts within the Emergency Department
  • A Mental Health Clinical Nurse Consultant and Psychiatric Registrar on staff 24/7
  • 4 full-time equivalent (FTE) Clinical Nursing Educators for 30 nursing staff, with one FTE nurse educator and “permanent” Equipment Officer also to be employed.
  • At least 90% of registered nurses in the ED to possess the required skills in emergency nursing.

The NSWNMA (ANMF NSW Branch) has also pledged to continue to support members working at the hospital, who they described “at breaking point”, and reiterating the need for action from the NSW government “to prioritise the health and wellbeing of all staff trying to provide safe care to their ED patients”.

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