Concerns have been raised about the lack of nurses at Griffith Base Hospital.
According to the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA), the equivalent of 30 full-time positions have not been filled by Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD).
The MLHD said although they have a number of vacancies, this is not impacting on patient care, and they are “ramping up” their strategy to recruit more staff.
NSWNMA organiser Zoe-Anne Guinea said nurses were being forced to work overtime to cover gaps and the system was unsustainable.
“Understaffing has become such an issue that the nurses who are on shift are regularly missing meal breaks and working overtime,” she said.
“The branch has been raising concerns through a Reasonable Workloads Committee with little improvement.”
Labor’s Opposition Spokesman for Health Walt Secord said he had found there to be 124 general vacancies within the wider MLHD.
These vacancies refer to all hospital staff, not just medical.
Karen Cairney, MLHD executive director of nursing and midwifery, said “the most important thing is there is no impact of patient care”.
“We do have part-time staff… we have a high percentage of part-time staff, and we ask our part-time staff to work additional hours, and we also utilise casual staff”.
Ms Cairney also said is was important for nurses to be able to take meal breaks, and the MLHD are currently ramping up recruitment strategies.
Nationals’ candidate for Murray Austin Evans said the number of vacancies highlighted by Mr Secord was proportionate to the number of MLHD employees.
“Even if we take Walt Secord’s Seek search at face value –the number represents 3.3 per cent of MLHD’s 3700-strong workforce,” Mr Evans said.
He also attributed a lack of applicants for open positions to the controversy surrounding the Griffith Base Hospital in recent months.
“Furthermore, I know by talking the Griffith hospital down, applicants for positions are now turning to other regional areas like Parkes and Forbes,” Mr Evans said.
Mr Secord said leaving jobs vacant meant staff were being overworked.
“The MLHD has almost 125 vacancies,” he said. “That is totally unacceptable.
“Leaving these positions unfilled lets down patients, but it also intensifies pressure on already overstretched staff.”
NSWMNA say that members of the association have approached by-election candidates, asking them to support local nurses and midwives.
Brendan Catanzariti from the Save Griffith Base Hosptial committee shot down Mr Evans’ claims of negative talk.
“As a hospital committee, no one has been talking down the hospital. All we’ve been doing is highlighting is the shortcomings of the hospital,” he said.
”Due to that discussion, the Nationals have committed to building a hospital within four years.”