A REGISTERED nurse who left the Launceston General Hospital earlier this year has described the emotional and physical impact of working 17-hour shifts.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said working long hours had taken its toll on her relationships, her immune system and her stress levels.
She spoke after it was revealed this week that the LGH had the dubious honour of recording the state’s most double shifts with 287 worked in August.
The Royal Hobart Hospital noted 268 for the same month. The government announced 40 extra nurses for the Southern hospital earlier this year to address long-standing issues with double shifts and overtime.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson said on Wednesday that the government had recognised the problem at the LGH and was working to improve the situation.
He said the hospital would soon receive an additional 9.58 FTE (full time equivalent) nursing staff and also benefit from the 15 extra graduate nurses added to the 115 expected to join the Tasmanian Health Service in early 2016.
‘‘There have been increases in nursing staff at LGH over the last year, but we are continually facing higher admission levels and higher levels of acuity,’’ Mr Ferguson said.
‘‘We have a plan to reduce double shifts and better provide for our patients.’’
But the anonymous nurse said staff were suffering now.
‘‘People are taking sick leave, they’re taking Workers’ Compensation for stress,’’ she said.
‘‘The biggest issue is you’re worried about making mistakes and feel that you’re not at your best so you feel you’re compromising patient safety because you’re tired.’’
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary Neroli Ellis said research had found that working 17 hours was the equivalent of working with a blood alcohol content of .07.
Mrs Ellis said the 287 double shifts recorded at the LGH were the highest she had seen for the hospital.
‘‘Wards which have been benchmarked under the staffing model have not had the identified additional nurses employed due to budget constraints, and that is now reflected in double shifts on those wards,’’ she said.
‘‘Other areas working double shifts have not been benchmarked for over four years, leaving them short on baseline rosters, again resulting in double shifts.’’