Nurses are looking at ramping up industrial action at the Launceston General Hospital emergency department.
On Thursday, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmanian branch mailed about 300 postcards from patients and relatives to Health Minister Michael Ferguson.
The union launched its Bring Your Own Bed campaign last week, calling on the Tasmanian Health Service and state government to address the “chronic lack of in-patient beds” at the hospital.
Mr Ferguson said the government was “always concerned” when patient demand was higher than physical capacity at the LGH.
“The fact is, opening more beds involves building more buildings,” he said.
“Industrial action by the ANMF is difficult to comprehend given the incoming government has agreed to what the union has asked for in relation to hospital beds at the LGH, including reopening all wards previously closed by the former government.
“Not only have we announced 40 new beds, including building a new ward as part of a major redevelopment of the LGH, planning on these building works will begin within our first 100 days. The first beds will open next year with the remainder by 2023.
“The government has also committed to an additional 161 hospital and health staff to support these beds and health services.”
ANMF Tasmanian branch secretary Emily Shepherd said members wanted “immediate action”.
“Staff in the emergency department have distributed more than 500 postcards, which will go to the minister for health calling for immediate action and today, we’ll be posting more than 300 of those off to the minister for health,” she said.
“There is a constant concern in relation to capacity of in-patient beds and that does result in decreased flow of in-patients from the emergency department.
“The postcards are calling for immediate action to address the solutions that have been put forward by ANMF members. These are solutions that can be acted on immediately and certainly there are some longer-term strategies that have also been proposed.”
The union will meet with members next week to discuss any potential escalation of action in relation to the campaign.
“We’re concerned for our members in the LGH emergency department – they’ve been raising issues in relation to inpatient capacity since 2016,” Ms Shepherd said.
“The flu season is imminent and if it’s anything like last year, there will be additional pressures placed on the ED at the LGH, which is all the more reason on why the solutions put from members need to be acted on immediately.”
Mr Ferguson said the government “always welcomed” suggestions by hospital staff on ways to deal with the demand pressures, and urged the union to “continue to engage constructively” with the THS.