Nurses ready to act - Bed closures on cards as job cuts hit workloads

Wednesday 5th December, 2012

Nurses are threatening to close beds in Queensland public hospitals amid savage budget cuts they claim are putting patient safety at risk.

In the wake of significant job losses in public hospitals, Queensland Nurses Union secretary Beth Mohle said members across the state were assessing staffing levels against the number of patients they had to care for.

She said bed closures were possible.

"That's what we have to do if we haven't got enough resources," Ms Mohle said.

"That's our workload management tool to maintain safe levels of patient care."

She said the Toowoomba Base Hospital was already on notice beds might close after concerns management planned to cut down on nurses filling in for those on leave.

"The State Government has no right to ask nurses and midwives to do more and more with less and less," Ms Mohle said.

"It is unsafe and that is not acceptable.

"The likelihood that nurses and midwives will have to take action to protect patient safety, in many Queensland Health facilities and services, is increasing by the day."

She said the QNU would do its best to announce when they planned to close beds.

The last time Queensland experienced widespread public hospital bed closures by nurses was in 2002 during enterprise bargaining negotiations when up to 1000 beds were closed.

As health bosses in Queensland's southeast announced hundreds of job losses this week, Ms Mohle said bed closures would be considered on a "case-by-case basis".

Paediatric health workers will know by the end of today whether they still have a job under the pre-Christmas cuts.

Children's Health Queensland will shed 99 full-time equivalent staff, including 15 positions already vacant, to meet a $15 million savings target.

The Courier-Mail has learned axed positions include senior nurses and a large number of administration officers.

Ms Mohle said she was devastated by the cuts.

"These are positions that are central to ensuring high quality paediatric services," she said.

The Hospital and Health Board chair Susan Johnson told workers this week the reductions could have been much more savage.

In her address to staff, obtained by The Courier-Mail, she said Children's Health Queensland had been told it was expected to cut 187 full-time positions.

"Our job as a board and a leadership team was not to blindly push through significant change without testing the basis for it," Ms Johnson said.

"Our job was to gain the best possible outcome for our service in very, very difficult circumstances.

Ms Johnson said the board had been able to halve the number of job losses after two months of negotiations with Queensland Health and the Newman Government.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Lawrence Springborg accused the QNU of being "puppets of the Labor Party".