Up to 200 nurses and midwives rallied outside Westmead Hospital on Wednesday to express their disappointment about the sudden closure of a 29-bed ward.
The ear, nose and throat; head and neck; and plastics surgical ward, known as B3A, closed on Wednesday, which will stay closed for the rest of the current financial year.
NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) general secretary Brett Holmes, said affected nurses were all shocked by the sudden closure and upset they were not given more notice of the decision.
“We are obviously concerned that these cuts may just be the start, not to mention the flow on implications this will have on other wards, particularly Westmead’s already stretched emergency department, over the next eight months,” Mr Holmes said.
“Western Sydney Local Health District has since confirmed all staff will be redeployed within the health service or be encouraged to use any excess leave they may have accrued.
“Asking staff to nominate their preferred transfer options with just one week’s notice is appalling and shows a complete disregard by management toward its dedicated nursing workforce.
“This is a blatant attempt by management to cut costs by reducing its overall nursing numbers at Westmead. Some 47 nursing staff in B3A will be relocated into existing vacant positions throughout the hospital and all patients will have to be accommodated in other wards and units.”
Western Sydney Local Health District chief executive Danny O’Connor said it was routine practice in hospitals to match bed capacity to demand.
“This winter, we opened additional beds to cater to a record flu season and an outbreak of gastroenteritis in the community,” Mr O’Connor said
“Both outbreaks have since eased so the hospital has responded by adjusting bed numbers, as is standard practice.
Mr O’Connor said the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association were advised there would be no job losses from the ward closure or impact on the delivery of high-quality clinical care.
“Nursing staff and patients will simply be relocated to other wards and emergency and elective surgeries will continue to be performed as usual,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Over the past three years, Westmead Hospital has boosted nursing numbers by 260 fulltime nursing staff and is set to spend more than $240 million on nursing jobs this financial year alone. In the coming months, nearly 120 new first-year nurses and midwives will start work at the hospital.”
The union’s Westmead branch has called on Health Minister Brad Hazzard to intervene and ensure the local health district is funded appropriately to operate Westmead and surrounding hospitals, which serves the fastest growing population region in NSW.
“Western Sydney Local Health District claims the B3A closure is a temporary measure, but given the sudden nature of this shutdown, coupled with ongoing workload issues and lengthy delays in nursing vacancy recruitments, we fear it may be longer,” Mr Holmes said.