Striking nurses rage against lack of staff in NSW hospitals

Nurses have taken strike action across public hospitals in NSW for up to 24 hours, with around 5000 marching on state parliament. Another 30 rallies took place at hospitals outside Sydney. Nurses are reeling from the surge in patients due to Omicron—but there were staff shortages for years before COVID hit.

“It’s just ridiculous, we’re not supported at all,” one nurse from Royal Price Alfred hospital told Solidarity. “I feel very angry, Perrottet has no idea what it’s like.

“We need more staff, we need more nurses, we need to be able to have our breaks and not leave work an hour late, doing overtime and not being paid for it.”

“It’s absolutely disgusting that politicians who don’t work in a hospital are trying to convince us that we’re coping. We’re not coping,” another nurse said.

“Everyone knows that nurses want to take care of patients first and foremost, so the fact that we’re out here protesting means that there is something very very wrong happening in the hospitals.

“The government need to implement safe staffing ratios immediately. We need a fair pay rise of 2.5 per cent and a COVID allowance. They have it in Victoria so why can’t we have it in NSW?”

Branches of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association voted for strike action of 24 hours at Royal Prince Alfred, 12 hours at Westmead hospital and eight hours at Blacktown. A skeleton staff remained at work to care for patients.

NSW nurses have been fighting for ratios to guarantee an adequate number of nurses per patient since at least 2015. But NSW Liberal Premier Dominic Perrottet has refused to implement the ratios, despite their adoption in Queensland and Victoria.

The union’s secretary, Brett Holmes, told the rally outside parliament that, “He’s been prepared to dish out lots of money trying to save business, but we need to save our health system. Premier, it’s time you came to the table with real answers, real money.”

Closing the rally, the union’s President O’Bray Smith told the crowd of nurses, “This is not the end, this is just the beginning. We are here to stay until we know that the community gets the health care they deserve.”

This is the kind of action that is needed to fight for workplace safety, decent pay, and the healthcare system needed in the face of the pandemic. The nurses deserve everyone’s support.

By James Supple

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