Disability nurses get, on average, about 7% less than Public Health System (PHS) nurses and midwives. Some categories of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC) nurses, such as Clinical Nurse Educator, are paid 15% less than their counterparts in the PHS, says RN Michael Grant, president of the NSWNMA branch at the Stockton Centre in Newcastle.
ADHC nurses say achieving wage parity with general nurses is essential to halt the exodus of staff from disability services.
“The pay gap is forcing experienced disability nurses to shift into general nursing to try to maintain their living standards”, says Michael. “At Stockton Centre our FTE (full-time-equivalent) numbers are 25% down on the level of 2005-06 and we have to rely on casuals. We are really feeling the pressure and our clients are being put at increasing risk.
“The roster for my unit has quite a few shifts that don’t have a registered nurse and the after-hours nurse manager has to look after multiple units overnight, which has a big impact on their own job. Many of our clients have multiple illnesses and disability issues, which makes for an awfully hard day for staff. ”
Michael said ADHC is trying to attract more overseas nurses, with a job expo in New Zealand and recruitment efforts in the UK and Ireland.
“But how can Disability Services hope to attract staff with lower pay and now potential cuts to award conditions?”
ADHC have even surveyed staff to try to find out what might encourage nurses to work past retirement.
“We want to get paid the same as other nurses, have our shifts appropriately staffed and be able to finish our shifts more or less on schedule so we can spend time with our families.”
Michael said the state government’s move to cut award conditions for ADHC nurses would speed up the departure of disability nurses from the sector.
“Barry O’Farrell has decided he is going to take a big slice of our award conditions on top of the pay restriction. We could lose penalty rates on some afternoon shifts, up to two weeks of our annual holidays, all our annual leave loading and the FACS leave for short term emergencies, among other things.
“Our clients will suffer the impact of this, along with the nurses who care for them.”
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