Tasmania faces significant challenges in recruiting and retaining nurses, the head of the nurses’ union says.
While both major parties have promised to employ more nurses, the Tasmanian Health Service currently has 184 permanent nurse vacancies.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmania branch secretary Emily Shepherd said nurse shortages already existed across maternity, intensive care and theatre areas.
“It is only a matter of time before this extends to general [nursing] areas as well,” Ms Shepherd said.
“We had 168 members move interstate or retire in 2017 and when you consider only an additional 164 new graduate nurses joined the THS you can see that there is a growing risk to having a sufficiently staffed nursing and midwifery workforce in Tasmania.”
Figures show the overtime bill in May and June last year for nurses at the state’s four hospitals was $914,489 with the Launceston General Hospital having the highest bill of $427,196.
Nurses and midwives employed in the THS will begin wage negotiations in March this year and Ms Shepherd said even if they received a two per cent wage increase they would remain the lowest paid in Australia.
“At best they would be approximately 7.5 per cent behind the next best paid and more than 10 per cent behind the best paid nurses and midwives,” she said.
“Obviously being able to deliver quality patient care remains the top priority, but clearly being the lowest paid in Australia will have an effect on this due to the inability to retain our graduates in Tasmania or recruit from interstate.”
“Patient care must not compromised due to workforce shortages.”
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners national president Dr Bastian Seidel said there was also a shortage of nurses working in GP clinics in Tasmania.
“Nurses working with GPs are indispensable but there are simply not enough of them and it is difficult for them to compete with hospital nurses,” Dr Seidel said.