Nurses and midwives will gather outside Maitland Hospital on Wednesday to voice concern and raise community awareness about ongoing under staffing and patient safety across multiple wards and departments within the hospital.
Members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA) Maitland Hospital branch said they were forced to speak publicly, after hospital management failed to acknowledge issues or take steps to adequately address them.
NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Judith Kiejda, said members were fatigued, experiencing burn-out and felt unsupported, despite raising repeated concerns.
"Maitland Hospital members are reporting widespread issues, from nurse shortages during night shift in the emergency department, general medical patients regularly being treated in the maternity ward, to unsafe staffing in the Acute and Cardiac Observation Unit," said Ms Kiejda.
They will hold their rally during their lunch break at 12.30pm.
"After months of highlighting their concerns through the hospital's reasonable workload committee, without improvement, our members are understandably extremely disappointed with Hunter New England Local Health District for failing to step in and address these issues.
"There's an obligation on all parties involved in the reasonable workloads process to canvass all issues and make every effort to resolve them promptly, or outline appropriate time frames and interim measures. "Unfortunately, this hasn't been the case at Maitland and now it's at the point where the reasonable workload committee has become untenable," she said.
Elizabeth Grist, Executive Director, Clinical Services and Nursing and Midwifery Hunter New England Health (HNEH), said local health districts are required to staff hospital wards and emergency departments (EDs) in accordance with the Public Health System Nurses' and Midwives' (State) Award.
She said HNEH continuously monitors patient volumes and staff numbers across. "Maitland Hospital meets all award requirements and is adequately staffed to meet the needs of the community."
But Ms Kiejda said union members have lost confidence in the process and fear for patients' safety. "More issues have begun to surface in other parts of the hospital, while staff continue to be put under enormous pressure. It's a catalyst for error, or worse, an avoidable incident.
In response to a recent increase in the volume of patients presenting to the hospital's ED Ms Grist said the ED's medical staff was increased by four full time equivalent (FTE) positions to strengthen care provided.