For the first time in almost a decade, nurses in New South Wales have voted to hold a large scale strike amid a dispute on staffing ratios, pay and working conditions.
Thousands of workers in some of the state’s busiest hospitals could walk off the job on February 15 after the ballot by the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association saw the majority of its branches supporting industrial action.
Brett Holmes, General Secretary at the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives Association, told Today striking was the absolute last resort for nurses and midwives.
Nurses were at breaking point, having worked for the past two years under trying conditions with staff shortages made even more critical by the pandemic, Mr Holmes said.
“The nurses and midwives across NSW have been campaigning for nurse-to-patient ratios on a shift-by-shift basis for nearly ten years,” he said.
“They are desperate to tell the NSW Government that we need a better health system, we need a health system where there are enough nurses and midwives on every shift to look after the patients in their care.”
Nurses and midwives at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital are considering striking for up to 24 hours, at Westmead Hospital for up to 12 hours and at Liverpool and Blacktown hospitals for up to eight hours, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
NSW hospitals are still operating on red alert due to the pressure on the health system imposed by the Omicron outbreak.
Mr Holmes said if the strike were to go ahead, nurses and midwives would leave behind enough staff to deliver life-preserving care.
“The health system prepared itself for a massive loss of nurses during the worst of the Delta and Omicron outbreaks, so they have got plans and, we are saying, you can test them now and see what it is like without nurses at the bedside,” he said.