Nursing workload time-bomb
A survey has found that the Victorian community is being spared the full effects of the state's critical nursing shortage because nurses are contributing up to 450 equivalent full-time jobs by working unpaid overtime and working through their meal breaks. The survey, by the Australian Centre for Industrial Relations Research and Training, was commissioned by the Victorian Branch of the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF). More than 2,000 nurses in public and private acute hospitals, nursing homes and psychiatric facilities who were surveyed revealed that the Victorian health system relies on nurses working hours of unpaid overtime to compensate for the nursing shortage. The majority of nurses work overtime, with 70 per cent of those that do being compelled to do so. Only 19 per cent are always paid for their overtime, 32 per cent are never paid and 80 per cent have given up applying to be paid. ANF Branch Secretary, Belinda Morieson, said the survey results should alarm the community. "The ANF has been warning the Government of the critical nursing shortage and we have been imploring them to act since February, but they have refused to do so. "Instead they are relying on the goodwill of nurses to make up for the nursing vacancies by working hours of unpaid overtime." The community is watching as beds are closed and services are reduced. The ANF says that the situation will only get worse. Nurses are saying to the Government: "You have taken us for granted for long enough — fix it." The survey also shows that nurses are dissatisfied with the impact their working lives is having on their family and social lives and are angry at the way their professionalism is being compromised. "They are sick and tired of working double shifts and working with inadequate nurse-to-patient ratios and an inadequate skill mix", said Ms Morieson. "They want staffing levels addressed immediately, and they make it very clear that this cannot be done by filling the gaps with agency staff. "The Government has to act immediately to address this problem. It has to get serious about the shortage of nurses and put the resources into recruiting and retaining the nurses the community needs. "It has to set about making the public health system a place where nurses can do what they're trained to do — provide the highest quality nursing care to the Victorian community. If it delays any longer, the community is really going to pay the price."
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