Nurses at Launceston General Hospital are physically and emotionally exhausted, according Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmanian Branch emergency department representative Tom Millen.
Mr Millen said staff were struggling to guarantee patient care, as union members continue to escalate industrial action.
“Frontline staff are sick and tired of excuses and band-aid solutions from the [Health] Minister and the THS,” he said.
“Bed block has created a crisis in our health system and we need real leadership for it to be solved.
“Nurses are physically and emotionally exhausted and are struggling to guarantee safe and adequate care to our patients when we have to treat them in a crowded waiting room or whilst ramped on ambulance trolleys.”
Mr Millen’s comments come after what union members called “the worst 24 hours” at the hospital this year, with 130 people presenting to the emergency department over 24 hours from Tuesday.
On Wednesday Health Minister Michael Ferguson assured hospital staff that the government was working to relieve demand pressures.
“We are rolling out immediate solutions, as well as our long-term plan, to support the LGH,” he said.
“The government has delivered significant boosts to nurse numbers from March 2014 to March 2018, with nearly 375 FTE more nurses in our health system.
“For the LGH, this means 180 FTE more nurses and more than 20 FTE more doctors.”
How it’s unfolded:
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmanian Branch first launched industrial action in March.
The Bring Your Own Bed campaign aimed to address the chronic lack of in-patient beds at the LGH and called on the Tasmanian Health Service and state government to open more beds at the hospital.
In July, union members began holding daily vigils outside the LGH emergency department calling on the government to address a lack of inpatient beds, bed blocking, ambulance ramping, and associated risks they claim are putting patient and staff safety at risk.
In August the Health and Community Services Union joined the campaign.
On August 4 Health Minister Michael Ferguson announced a $1.5 million, six month support package designed to reduce pressures at Launceston General and Royal Hobart hospital emergency departments.
The six-month package featured:
- Patient flow support teams established at the RHH and the LGH, led by senior emergency medicine specialists with additional nurse support.
- Streamlined admission processes.
- Increased on-call resources to assist with patient flow during periods of high demand.
- Extended hours for the pathology service and increased on-call resources to help care to be provided faster.
- Boosted cleaning capacity to improve bed turnover, as well as more on-call resourcing, during periods of high demand.
Mr Ferguson said the government understood the increasing pressures facing hospital staff and was working towards a long-term solution, including an investment of $757 million into the overall health budget, over six years.
While the funding was welcomed by the ANMF, Tasmania branch secretary Emily Shepherd said it was not enough to resolve the “extremely challenging situation” facing the hospital’s frontline staff.
Union members have since continued to escalate industrial action, with a street rally held in Launceston on August 31.
From Monday, Tasmanian public sector nurses and midwives vowed to stop “going above and beyond” their duties and to claim all entitlements, as part of further industrial action