A UNION has claimed victory over Hunter New England Health as a months-long dispute about staffing numbers draws to a close.
The dispute began in October when John Hunter Hospital nurses and midwives voted to introduce an industrial ban on placing follow-up phone calls to discharged patients.
The Nurses and Midwives Association said the calls had been “prioritised above the care needs of inpatients”, and argued they should instead be placed by other clinical and allied health staff.
The union also alleged senior positions were being filled by nurses of a lower classification, which, in the event of unplanned leave, placed “enormous pressure” on some staff to make up the shortfall.
The union’s acting general secretary, Judith Kiejda, said she welcomed change.
“We’re certainly pleased Hunter New England LHD has recognised its policy for follow-up phone calls to discharged patients was nonsensical and they will no longer be prioritised above the care needs of inpatients at John Hunter Hospital,” she said.
“Our members welcome Hunter New England LHD’s efforts to amend its policy on replacing unplanned leave.
“They’ve reassured us nursing and midwifery staff will no longer be replaced with someone of a lower classification until all avenues to backfill the vacancy are exhausted, including the use of overtime.
“This has been a significant issue which often leads to a dilution of the skill mix among remaining staff and puts enormous pressure on the senior nurses.”
Hunter New England Health said in a short statement follow-up phone calls were “vitally important” and would be maintained.
“Hunter New England Local Health District has always prioritised acute care for inpatients,” the statement said.
“We still maintain the vital importance of follow up phone calls to discharged patients to ensure patient safety and post-discharge care and we have clarified our policy formally in the Industrial Relations Commission.
“We are monitoring our wards and units to ensure that the appropriate staffing levels are in place.”