How to get safe staffing


What can union branches at community health services do to guarantee safe staffing?

Public campaign: A community palliative care service starts a weekend on-call service for end of life care clients. As client numbers increase so does the frequency of callouts, leaving weekday nurse numbers depleted. Members decide to form a coalition with key stakeholders (clients, carers, family and a local Palliative Care Support Group) to publicly campaign for increased staffing for safe patient care.

Limit client numbers: A child and family health service has not met NSW Health home visit program benchmarks. Child and family health nurses are working hard to meet key performance indicators, however increasing birth rates and vacant positions are proving problematic. The branch agrees to see a maximum of four clients per day to ensure safe, appropriate levels of care can be provided. The branch also agrees that their community should be told why the number of visits are being reduced and ask the community for their support and understanding.

Refuse non-urgent referrals: A generalist community health service experiences increasing referrals with no additional resources. Community nurses get speeding fines while trying to visit all allocated clients and are concerned that the quality of care provided is unsatisfactory. There is no locally agreed face-to-face time ratio. Members agree that non-urgent referrals will not be accepted until a local face-to-face time ratio is developed and additional resources are provided so that a reasonable workload and safe patient care can be delivered.

Ask management to prioritise: The Department of Health reviews the use of health service vehicles. A community health service loses one car that the department decides is being under-used. With reduced access to vehicles, nurses must start earlier and finish later, working unpaid overtime to meet client care needs. The local NSWNA branch unanimously resolves that unpaid overtime will be claimed and that if management declines to pay overtime rates, nurses will no longer start early or finish late. Management would then need to prioritise which clients receive a visit and which do not.

Sydney community health meeting

Metropolitan community and community mental health members are invited to attend the Take Control of Your Day: There’s No Reason to Wait presentation on Tuesday 15 May from 5-6.30pm at 50 O’Dea Ave Waterloo.

This will be followed by a barbecue and Committee of Delegates meeting from 7.15pm.

Members are welcome to stay for the meeting as observers. Please RSVP by email to for catering purposes.

Image credit: NSWNA

Don’t forget our International Nurses Day contest – the best photo of nurses celebrating will win a two-night stay in the Hunter Valley.

Remember to sign the NSWNA Recency of Practice Petition!




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