Union members have accused Health Minister Michael Ferguson of making false claims about opening all beds across the Tasmanian health system.
Currently at the Launceston General Hospital, 24 beds are permanently funded in Ward 4D, with a further five available as flex beds.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmanian branch secretary Emily Shepherd said the Tasmanian Health Service had refused to permanently fund all 29 beds, despite ongoing industrial action.
“It is time the Minister for Health and the Tasmanian Government acknowledge that they have mislead the community and parliament by continuing to announce that all the wards and beds are open,” she said.
“This is simply not true. Since December last year there have been available beds at the Launceston General Hospital that could be opened, yet the government refuses to fund them.”
Department of Health secretary Michael Pervan said it was important flex beds were available at hospitals, to deal with demand surges.
“The THS executive determined that retaining those five beds on Ward 4D as flex capacity, on top of the 24 permanently funded beds, represents the most effective use of these beds and helps the hospital to maximise patient flow,” he said.
“The THS will continue to work constructively with the ANMF, and is progressing initiatives to improve patient flow and deliver more support for the LGH ED.”
Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the government was working to ease pressures.
“We have increased nursing staff levels on Ward 4D, which is exactly what the ANMF asked us to do,” he said.
“We are also recruiting assistants in nursing to provide more support and ease the pressure on current workload.”
Thursday marked the 79th continuous daily vigil held by ANMF members outside the LGH emergency department, calling on the government to address issues of bed block and in-patient capacity.
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.
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