Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 7 Hansard (22 September) . . Page.. 2006 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

In order to get an appropriate outcome to try to calm the issue down, the hospital management said, "What we will do, on a temporary basis, is close 17 beds that are currently not being used". There were 10 in the medical ward, as I recall, and seven in the surgical ward. Indeed, those beds have been closed, and the hospital has been managing with those beds closed. The word we use is that they have been "contained". In other words, they are closed, waiting to be opened should they be needed.

Mr Speaker, I must say that right through this dispute there have been quite a number of situations where what Commissioner Deegan said and what she was reported as having said have been two entirely different things. Similarly, what I have said and what I have been reported as having said are two entirely different things. That has made public perception of the issue very difficult. There are, clearly, problem areas within the hospital in specific specialties, particularly in the intensive care unit, the coronary care unit and the oncology department. Management has always made it quite clear that it believed that there were problems and shortages within those areas. The hospital has advertised, seeking to find nurses in those particular areas.

To round off the answer to your question, Mr Osborne, I would say that with the closure of those 17 beds the hospital is also looking at restructuring nursing services to make sure that nurses are able to work in the most efficient way available to them through their structures. To do that, there is certainly going to be some consideration of the consolidation of a couple of wards. That will be done in conjunction with and in discussion with the union. Secondly, the Canberra Hospital management is considering today what is the best way to distribute nursing services to make sure that we get the most effective approach, considering that the Auditor-General's report - which the public accounts committee, under Mr Quinlan, has just looked at - was suggesting that it is 80 nurses overstaffed.

MR OSBORNE: I have a supplementary question. Are there any plans, Minister, to hire new nurses, or are you hanging it on the inquiry by the hospital into distributing nursing services? That is my supplementary question, but may I add a point? I find it interesting that an order of the industrial relations commissioner says that the management of the Canberra Hospital is directed to close any beds which are unable to be properly staffed. I would think that is a concession regardless of any agreement. Nevertheless, my supplementary question is: Are there any plans to hire new nurses? I think you have answered that, anyway.

MR MOORE: In fact, there was no concession about that direction from the industrial relations commissioner, because that is exactly what the Canberra Hospital always does and has done. It has never been a problem. The critical factor in what the industrial relations commissioner did was saying to the nurses that there is no ground for industrial action; that the industrial action that they have been taking was inappropriate.

I must say, Mr Osborne, as I moved around from ward to ward and talked to the nurses, I had no doubt that a number of the nurses agreed with the union on these issues, but there was also a large number of nurses that did not. That might explain why, when the industrial action was occurring, three or four nurses would go off the ward. At no stage did all the nurses go off any of the wards. A number of nurses that I am aware of either have resigned or are considering resigning from the union.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .