Kalgoorlie Health Campus staff are working record levels of overtime and double shifts because of a “critical” lack of nurses and midwives, according to the nurses union.
Australian Nursing Federation State secretary Mark Olson said the Goldfields’ biggest hospital was suffering from a severe staffing shortfall and was only functioning because of the few leftover workers doing record levels of extra work.
He said the health system in regional WA is “in crisis” because of staff shortages, which he said was caused by regional hospitals being “over-reliant” on recruitment from interstate, which has been made nearly impossible by the pandemic and border restrictions.
“We have big hospitals like Kalgoorlie, where the only reason Kalgoorlie is functioning right now is for the record level of overtime and the record numbers of double shifts, and they can’t get staff in from NSW and Victoria because of the closed border,” he said.
Mr Olson said the problem was not limited to the Goldfields, with regional WA hospitals hiring up to 75 per cent of their nurses and midwives from the Eastern States.
That tap has been turned off and we’ve made no provisions on how we’re going to fill those vacancies.
“We know we’re in crisis and it’s just going to get worse,” he said.
“Patient’s lives are at risk, our Kalgoorlie nurses, midwives and healthcare workers are stressed, they’re tired, they need counselling to manage the issues in their workplaces, they’re at their wits’ end and they’re looking for other jobs.”
Mr Olson’s comments echo a similar claim from Kalgoorlie MLA Ali Kent, who on Monday said WA Country Health Service was struggling to tap its traditional recruitment pools from outside the State because of the pandemic.
This comes after Kalgoorlie-Boulder resident Tia Greenhill waited 14 hours for emergency surgery at the hospital in June, and claimed personnel working at the time urged her to complain about ongoing staff shortages.
WACHS Goldfields regional director Peter Tredinnick acknowledged Kalgoorlie Health Campus was going through “challenging times”, and said staffing shortfalls would be addressed next month.
“I want to acknowledge staff at the facility for their continued commitment to compassionate, patient-centred care,” he said.
“I also want to reassure the community that we are working hard behind the scenes to implement workforce strategies that will see staffing pressures at the hospital reduce come August.
“Staff shortages in the context of school holidays and border restrictions aren’t exclusive to Kalgoorlie Health Campus and impact all health service providers.”
He did not directly answer questions about record levels of overtime and double shifts, but said staff overtime does occur.
Mr Olson called on the State Government to develop a “clear policy” on allowing nurses and midwives to cross the border by prioritising their G2G Passes so they could start work in WA.
He said experienced nurses were being “wasted” at COVID-19 vaccination hubs and called for “creative solutions” such as utilising nursing students to assist in the rollout, while established nurses could plug gaps in hospital rosters.
“(Students) know about personal protective equipment, they know how to give injections, they know about informed consent, they have all the requisite skills to be able to help with the vaccination program,” he said.