Monday, 6 June 2022


Armidale buckling under increased workload pressures


NORTHERN Tablelands MP Adam Marshall has today expressed fears that without immediate intervention, Armidale Hospital’s Emergency Department is on the brink of collapse, as staff are pushed to breaking point by an unrealistic workload caused by transfers from smaller district hospitals across the region.


Mr Marshall met with representatives of the Armidale branch of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association last Friday, where concerns about the intense pressure on ED doctors and nurses were raised and Hunter New England Local Health’s refusal to put on additional staff or extra shifts on the roster.


“Just under a month ago the union took a reasonable, and workable, five-point plan to alleviate staffing issues at Armidale Hospital ED to Hunter New England Health senior management, only to have the request completely rejected,” Mr Marshall said.


“Armidale Hospital ED has a large enough workload on its own, without acting as the unofficial ED for Glen Innes, Inverell and Tenterfield communities as well, with their hospitals increasingly on ‘bypass’, meaning all patient presentations are sent directly to Armidale.


“Because of Hunter New England Health’s continued refusal to pay for additional staff in outlying hospitals – although it’s never once asked for more funding to do so – a culture has developed which sees patients transferred to Armidale, often unnecessarily, for treatments.


“These measures would not be needed if the health district was to staff the district hospitals appropriately.”


Mr Marshall was astounded that Hunter New England Health said activity data did not support additional nursing shifts at Armidale Hospital, branding the statement as a ‘barefaced lie’.


“I cannot believe the Hunter New England Health CEO will not listen to his own frontline nursing staff, who a busting their guts each and every day to provide a first-class service to patients and keep out communities safe, under some of the most difficult circumstances at the moment,” Mr Marshall said.


“They have the data and the firsthand knowledge, working the ED and wards every day at the hospital.


“Based comfortably in Newcastle, they clearly have no idea what’s going on here, nor does the CEO appear to care at all – he didn’t even reply to the letter addressed to him, instead having someone else reply on his behalf.


“I call on Hunter New England Health to review its response to the Armidale nurses and implement these changes immediately, to relieve the pressure on the Armidale Hospital and its dedicated staff.


“As the local MP, I’ll continue to give our nurses my 100 per cent support and I know the community has their back too.”


Mr Marshall has also written to the Regional Health Minister Bronnie Taylor requesting her urgent intervention in the matter.


The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association have requested funding be made available for the below additional resources at Armidale Hospital:


  • 3 extra 12 hour nursing shifts (2×12 hour Team Leaders) and 1×12 hour Clinical Initiative Nurse (CIN);
  • An additional nurse for every three admitted patients staying in ED;
  • An ED security guard 24 hours a day;
  • All residential medical officers move to 10 hours shifts; and
  • An extra 10 hour seniors doctor shift;


“It’s time that Hunter New England and NSW Health stop viewing the current regional health crisis through rose coloured glasses and start listening to the experiences of the workforce and hearing their needs,” Mr Marshall said.


“The situation at Armidale Hospital is dire, and unless steps towards change are enacted immediately, we will be faced with an exodus from the workforce.


“While I, and the union, acknowledge steps are being taken to proactively recruit staff long term, there appears to be insufficient planning to alleviate the real pressures which exist right now.


“We don’t have years to solve this crisis, it’ll be far too late by then.”

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