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Nursing and allied health fall prey to NSW cuts

Date Updated:

Jillian Skinner

The general secretary of the NSW Nurses Association has questioned promises made by NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner that nurses’ jobs will be protected in the state’s health sector cuts.

Brett Holmes said the minister, while insisting nurses’ jobs be protected, had given responsibility for $775 million in budget cuts over four years to Local Health Districts (LHDs). The move is expected to see $89 million shaved off the budget for NSW hospitals this year.

With the NSW budget only announced around a fortnight ago, the results were already emerging, Holmes said. Nurses in key positions were being offered voluntary redundancies by their LHDs, while many hospitals and health facilities were witnessing dramatic cutback measures.

“In the Hunter New England area, they are picking positions
of high value such as clinical nurse consultants and nurse managers and offering voluntary redundancies.''

“At Manning Rural Referral Hospital in Taree, all staff were asked to come forward regarding voluntary redundancies. Staff were also lectured about not taking sick leave. They were told that if they have a cold they should wear a mask and come to work. They were also told that anyone who is sick needs a medical certificate. When you consider that this entails asking rural doctors to spend administration times giving nurses a certificate, it gets into the realms of the ridiculous.”

Holmes said the state was already suffering from chronic staff and resources shortages.

The NSW labour expense cap, which the NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has imposed on all departments, is on top of $2.2 billion in savings over four years NSW Health has been asked to make. The $2.2 billion in savings will be redirected to frontline services.

Minister Skinner has reportedly acknowledged that a 5.4 per cent increase in this year's health budget, to deliver $16.4 billion in recurrent spending, will not keep up with rising costs and patient demand. Hospitals will be expected to deliver an extra 50,000 emergency department visits, 30,000 overnight hospital stays and 2000 elective surgery procedures this year.

Meanwhile the opposition spokesman on health, Andrew McDonald, reportedly estimated the government would shed about 3600 jobs - or 3 per cent - over four years. ''Many of these people are frontline workers,'' he said. ''Allied health will bear the brunt of the cuts.''
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