A rally outside Maitland Hospital has heard how the hospital's Acute Care Unit is chronically understaffed and how surgical patients are being transferred to the maternity ward for post operative treatment.
More than 200 nurses, union representatives and community members attended the rally where members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA) called on the State Government to urgently provide more staff.
Maitland Branch President Jane Burton said key concerns are patient safety and the safety of the association's members who have exhausted all award provisions.
"There are fears for patient safety in Maitland Hospital and unfortunately those concerns have not been addressed.
"There are three areas that need addressing - the acute cardiac unit, maternity and emergency. The acute cardiac unit should have a minimum of one staff member for a maximum of three patients. At present there is one nurse for four patients who are chronically ill," Ms Burton said.
"Surgical patients are being transferred to the maternity ward without surgical nurses looking after them. This puts pressure on the midwives and on the mums and bubs."
The association is calling on NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard to intervene and resolve immediately what they say is a chronic staffing shortage.
Association members said they were forced to speak publicly, after hospital management failed to acknowledge issues or take steps to adequately address them.
However this was strongly contested by Executive Director, Clinical Services and Nursing and Midwifery Hunter New England Health (HNEH), Elizabeth Grist.
She 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," she said.
But NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Judith Kiejda, said members were fatigued, experiencing burn-out and felt unsupported, despite raising repeated concerns.
Ms Burton said Maitland is growing quickly and as a result so are the number of people presenting to the hospital.
"Maitland is the fastest growing city in NSW outside Sydney with five new people moving here every day. We can't sit back and wait another three years for the new hospital to be built. We need action now," Ms Burton said.
She said association members were elated at the number of people who turned out for the 12.30pm event. "It was fabulous to see the number of nursing staff, their families and community members who showed up," Ms Burton said.
There were also representatives from the Construction Maritime Mining and Energy Union and the Health Services Union present.