Royal Children’s Hospital mental health beds to close over staffing crisis

Wednesday 7th November, 2012

ANF (Vic Branch) today advised the Royal Children’s Hospital management that under the Fair Work Act mental health nurses will be unable to work at night in the child and adolescent mental health inpatient ward if any of four new beds are opened without an additional nurse because of an unacceptable and imminent risk to their health and safety.

The Royal Children’s Hospital will add four new beds to its 12-bed Banksia Ward from tomorrow, but is refusing to increase the number of mental health nurses rostered on all shifts to ensure the care and safety the 16 mental health patients and the safety of staff.

The hospital will adjust the number of nurses on the morning and afternoon shift from four mental health nurses to five, however it is refusing to increase the number of nurses on night shift from three to four nurses.

ANF (Vic Branch) Acting Secretary Paul Gilbert said: “We welcome the expansion of this much needed mental health service for children and teenagers, but extra patients require extra nurses, particularly in such a complex health environment.

“Staff assaults have increased in this unit since it relocated from Footscray to the new Royal Children’s Hospital earlier this year. Asking three nurses to care for 16 acutely unwell mental health patients will needlessly increase the risk to nurses and patients and is contrary to the safe, therapeutic environment needed to help these children and teenagers recover from their illnesses,” Mr Gilbert said.

“Despite the increase in staff assaults, Royal Children’s Hospital management disagrees with ANF that an extra four patients requires an extra nurse on night shift and are regrettably determined to open these beds without addressing the risks. We have also been unable to clarify the circumstances which would require an additional mental health nurse,” he said.

“This ward provides mental health inpatient care for clients across Victoria and this means it has a much higher proportion of patients who are acutely unwell than comparable units,” Mr Gilbert said.

“The staffing needs are also exacerbated by the ward’s discrete area design which leaves nurses alone and patients unsupervised,” he said.

“Health Minister David Davis must ensure funding is provided to ensure extra nurses are allocated to new beds and we call on him to urgently intervene to prevent unacceptable health and safety risks to young patients and mental health nurses at the Royal Children’s Hospital.”

Media inquiries: ANF (Vic Branch) Acting Secretary Paul Gilbert 0408 615 181 or ANF (Vic Branch) Media Officer Robyn Asbury 0417 523 252