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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 2432 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

States, even taking economies of scale into consideration, the ACT has an expensive health service. But I understand also that working conditions and the strain that nurses have been placed under are untenable and that nurses have taken industrial action after enduring these conditions for a long time.

The Australian Nursing Federation has a large membership at the Canberra Hospital and it is therefore a legitimate voice for nurses. Mr Moore states that the Government has never refused to negotiate. It seems unclear the terms under which they are prepared to negotiate. Is it only as part of the Government's $11m savings? Does the Government expect the nurses to find most of those savings? What savings have been made in recent negotiations with doctors? I would not mind knowing what the patient-to-doctor ratio at the Canberra Hospital is compared to other States.

We know that beds have been closed at Canberra Hospital and that full-time equivalent nursing staff has been reduced. I am not going to get into arguments about exactly how many, but we know that there has been a reduction and we know that that has been of concern, particularly to the nurses, who have to work in an environment where often they are not able to get leave when they want it. The patient-to-nurse ratio, as I understand it, has also been unsatisfactory.

I believe the ANF has put a proposal to the Government that will see them lift their bans and return to the negotiating table. I think I heard Mr Moore say before that he is interested in looking at the proposal to match New South Wales at 4 per cent. Maybe we will get a resolution. I am happy to support this motion. Everyone here is concerned about what is happening and we want to encourage the Government to negotiate in good faith and find a solution to the problem.

I have worked in hospitals as a nurse, and I know that the work is very stressful. From my discussions with the nurses, I think they have genuine complaints about some of the conditions under which they have been working, and I hope that the Government has indeed taken them seriously.

MR OSBORNE (5.34): I have given some thought to Mr Berry's amendment, but I will vote against it. My motivation for this motion today was to focus attention on the issue of the nurses and - - -

Ms Tucker: The bursars have gone.

MR OSBORNE: Yes, but I am still reluctant to support the last line, because I am unaware of what is happening with those other unions. I have had meetings with the ANF. I intended coming in here today to force the Government to the table with the nurses.

Ms Tucker: The last sentence has gone, Paul.

MR OSBORNE: Yes, I know, but I think I will stick with my initial motion. I thank members for their support. Very simply, a majority of members want to see the Government, in particular the Minister, resolve this issue. It is no good standing up

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