This is not the post I was planning on writing tonight, because tomorrow’s post will be a recap of the Victorian Public Hospital rally and I thought it would be pleasant to have something different in the interim. But I tried to compose a tween comparing nurse/midwife industrial bed closures with the government’s recent closures and my anger couldn’t be contained in 140 characters.
Just over a year ago, ANF (Vic. branch) members closed public hospital beds as part of what ended up being a marathon Enterprise Bargaining campaign. As has been the case every time we close beds as part of industrial action, particularly vulnerable patients were exempted from the closures – emergencies (including all emergency departments), neonates and children (including all of the Royal Children’s Hospital), cancer patients (including all of Peter MacCallum Hospital), haematology patients (leukaemias, haemophilia etc), dialysis patients, maternity patients and women in labour, termination of pregnancies, palliative care patients, intensive care and high dependency patients (including all ICU and HDU beds), coronary care patients and those who needed telemetry (cardiac monitoring).
We also included a clause that a closed bed would immediately open if an admitting officer (an experienced doctor) determined a patient’s condition would deteriorate if they weren’t admitted.
In past industrial actions, bed closures have started at 1 in 4 operational beds, and sometimes escalated to 1 in 3. We closed something like 800 beds within days – a move very quickly labelled by hospital CEO’s, the Premier, the Health Minister and Mr Djoneff (CEO of the association negotiating on behalf of the government) as dangerous, “threatening patient safety and welfare” and risking the public. Despite no evidence that any patient’s life was put at risk, FairWork Australia terminated bed closures as a protected industrial action, and the beds were re-opened.
To date over 400 new beds have closed as a result of the State and Federal public hospital funding cuts. That’s on top of the 800 promised bed that the Baillieu government has failed to deliver, and on top of bed and ward closures over the past year.
There are no exemptions when governments close beds.
Neonatal cots at the new Children’s Hospital weren’t adequately funded to start with, and lay empty; now beds and theatres there are closing. Across the State three emergency departments are or soon will be running restricted services – for Colac residents this means that between 9PM and 9AM they have to drive 76 kilometers on, to Geelong Hospital – where 26 beds have just closed. Beds and theatre sessions at every hospital in the state have been affected – including Peter MacCallum.
It is deceptive of Health Minister Davis to say Federal cuts may close wards when his own department’s cuts have already lead to ward closures. Sadly though, that’s how are elected officials have behaved since the Federal cuts were announced – both Federal and State governments blaming each other for the crisis, ad neither taking responsibility or offering a solution.
A reasonable person would think that lives are risked when beds are forced to close, regardless of who compels the closure. Apparently not – because it’s only the ANF who’s talking about lives at risk instead of money.
And that’s why we’re rallying tomorrow – because while politicians focus on the money, nurses, midwives, ambulance officers, psychologists, medical scientists, pharmacists, support staff, allied health professionals, doctors, patients, advocates and members of the community want to know what’s happening to fix it.
This is an issue that can affect anyone who lives in, is passing through, or who has family in Victoria. Think you’re okay because you have private insurance? Think again – if you’re in a car accident or seriously ill you’ll be taken to one of Melbourne’s major public hospitals. If your specialist is concerned, you’ll go to a public hospital. If you need a transplant, high-level intensive care, specialty surgery, advanced nuclear imaging, an urgent procedure – a public hospital.
And if there aren’t any beds, then you’ll be waiting, too.
If you can come to the rally, now only 11 hours away, please show the Premier, the Prime Minister and our Health Ministers that Victorians care about our public system. If you can’t be there, please contact your State and Federal MP’s and let them know that you vote, and you care. The longer this goes on, the longer it will take to recover…