A community meeting in Bruxner Park on Friday from 11am will air concerns about nurse staffing levels at Tenterfield Hospital, with the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association supporting its members in calls for health minister Brad Hazzard to address what they say are unsafe conditions.
NSWNMA organiser Jo-Anne McKeough said the association is demanding that next week's reopening of the hospital's renovated emergency department be delayed until the issue is addressed, and that staffing levels be returned to the three-nurses-per shift roster of old.
Ms McKeough said talk of average patient numbers is ludicrous, as a hospital is not an 'averages' game. You have to cater for the peaks.
"None of the strategies they're proposing will make a difference. They'll still have less people than what they started with.
"Once the ED opens, we know from experience that people are more prone to come to it."
She said the offer of an additional rostered nurse from 11am to 7.30pm on top of the two nurses per shift still reflects a net loss on traditional staffing numbers.
"If cases present in the early morning or after 7pm, you're stuck," she said.
"Our members are saying it's not safe. If you have two (patients) in ED each for two hours, there's half a shift gone. If two nurses are needed in ED, there's no-one looking after inpatients."
She said while most inpatients may not be acute, aged patients are more frail, require more care and need assistance with everything they do. Two nurses may be needed just to get them out of bed.
Talking averages drives an ill-informed narrative, she said, as is saying that older patients don't need as many resources.
"Low acuity patients don't deserve to have their needs ignored. It's ludicrous, and is leading to misinformation.
"This sort of staffing is not sustainable."
Ms McKeough said the hospital will have trouble retaining staff as nurses know that if they can't deliver safe care and something goes wrong, they will be blamed.
She's hoping as many people in the community as possible will come along to Friday's meeting in the park, to demonstrate their support for the nurses.
"The more people we get, the more pressure the minister knows he's got."