WA’s healthcare woes: Australian Nursing Federation claims nurses quitting over low pay, conditions

WA’s peak nursing group claims hordes of nurses are walking away from their jobs due to the low pay and poor working conditions plaguing the State’s healthcare system.

In a scathing tirade on Sunday, Australian Nursing Federation assistant secretary Janet Reah blasted the expectations placed on nurses and said they were leaving WA because the pay was better elsewhere.

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“They’re overworked, they’re not getting breaks, they’re asked again and again to come in early, finish late, they’re not getting paid overtime (and) when they apply, they’re being denied that – so that’s why they’re leaving,” Ms Reah said.

When asked how many nurses were leaving the workforce, Ms Reah replied: “Probably close to 50 per cent”, but the ANF later backtracked on the figure after a rebuff from WA Health, claiming to have misheard the question.

However, Ms Reah said “a lot of nurses are cutting hours or leaving the industry”.

A WA Health spokesperson said there had actually been an 11.8 per cent increase in workers between June last year and March this year.

They also disputed claims about not paying overtime.

“All healthcare workers are paid for any overtime they do, and we thank our staff, particularly those working on the front line for their ongoing commitment to patient care and their incredible hard work as the State responds to this pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

News. Ambulance ramping at Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) at 11:50am on Wednesday 18th May 2022.
Camera IconThe wage demand comes amid an ambulance ramping crisis. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

Ms Reah, who fronted media following the resignation of Mark Olson, also said nurses were working up to “16 hours in a row”.

“Last week I was told: ‘I don’t bother bringing food to work anymore because I don’t get to eat it’,” she said.

She also hit out at agency nurses who she claimed were “getting paid double” what the hospital nurses were earning.

“These agencies sort of blow-in, possibly making more work because they don’t know the ward.”

DOCTORS AND NURSES RALLY PERTH
Camera IconWA’s peak nursing group claims hordes of nurses are walking away from their jobs due to the low pay and poor working conditions plaguing the State’s healthcare system. Credit: AAP

But a WA Health spokesperson said agency staff played an “important role” in healthcare, particularly in remote areas where it is “difficult” to attract and retain staff.

“Healthcare workers in WA are being supported to take leave where possible, giving them a well-earned break and allowing them to visit friends and family,” they added.

“Each Health Service Provider runs their own staff wellbeing programs, to create work environments where staff feel safe, valued and supported.”

The heated debate comes amid a wage war between nurses and the State Government.

WA nurses feel hard done by and want wage rises in line with east coast workers.

That includes a $3000 COVID “thank you” bonus and a deal similar to the 3.5 per cent wage rise promised to nurses in New South Wales.

The McGowan Government has not yet announced any plans to comply with the demand, despite the ANF threatening action.

Premier Mark McGowan fronts the media about the ambulance situation. Pictured with Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson
Camera IconThe McGowan Government has not yet announced any plans to comply with the demand, despite the ANF threatening action. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

Shadow health minister Libby Mettam on Sunday called the McGowan Government “mean-spirited” for not using the State’s $5.7 billion surplus to increase the wages of healthcare workers.

“No real thank you from the McGowan Government for WA Health workers who have done the heavy lifting over the past two years during the pandemic,” Ms Mettam said.

She said health workers had helped the McGowan Government get popular and had not been repaid.

Ms Mettam believed Premier Mark McGowan was waiting to spend his big surplus during an election year.

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