Hunter New England Local Health District's Tablelands Sector manager Catharine Death has committed to one extra nurse on duty at Tenterfield Hospital during the day shifts, but this doesn't go far enough according to NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association.
Miss Death said she and a number of staff who came in for the discussion had a good meeting on Friday, speaking at length of their concerns about staffing levels particularly when the renovated Emergency Department reopens.
The immediate outcome is an additional nurse to be rostered on during the day from 10am-6pm or 11am-8pm, whichever staff consider the most appropriate, and this will start as soon as possible.
Miss Death will also return to speak with staff at the end of next week and see how they're coping, and to maintain regular visits to the hospital.
The NSWNMA, however, is pushing for a return to three nurses for every shift.
The union's acting general secretary Judith Kiejda said a petition was being circulated calling on the HNELHD chief executive to urgently intervene and address community concerns.
"Covertly cutting frontline nursing staff in a small country hospital is completely at odds with what the Berejiklian government promised constituents at the March state election," she said.
"More nurses and midwives for regional NSW is what the Health Minister committed for the bush, not less.
"It's completely unacceptable for Hunter New England LHD to reduce the number of rostered nurses back to just two on each of the day shifts at Tenterfield Hospital, without any consultation or risk assessment for the remaining staff.
"With the hospital's new emergency department due to become operational mid next month, we are calling on the LHD's Chief Executive and the Health Minister to immediately increase the daily staff levels to a minimum of three nurses on each shift.
"This is not an unreasonable request to maintain safe care for patients utilising this vital local health service.
"The LHD has a duty of care to ensure the hospital is safely and appropriately staffed at all times. Unless a modest increase in nursing staff occurs quickly, nurses will be forced to work in isolation, with no capacity for relief or assistance if two nurses are required for a medical procedure.
"The Tenterfield and surrounding community deserves safe, quality clinical care at all times and should not be expected to suffer with less.
"The NSWNMA is supporting members employed at Tenterfield Hospital and has sought urgent meetings with representatives from Hunter New England LHD to discuss the issues. The petition will be available throughout local businesses and community groups."
Staff also raised concerns about filling the security guard position with Miss Death, who said she will be fast-tracking that recruitment.