Staff freeze endangers patients:  doctors
Staff freeze endangers patients: doctors

Doctors and nurses claim a freeze on hiring hospital staff is endangering patients, including causing six-month delays in medical notes being sent back to GPs.

Though the State Government's ban on new public sector jobs exempts front-line positions, the Australian Nursing Federation says some hospitals are so short of nurses that patients have to be moved to other hospitals.

Nurses were working unpaid overtime because they did not want to leave patients in the lurch.

ANF State secretary Mark Olson said the Government was creating a situation where patients with life-threatening conditions were turning up at understaffed public hospitals.

"Hospitals should be staffed on the basis of providing safe cover and not on a funding model where nurses are cut from the roster when the money runs out two months before the end of the financial year," he said.

"Compromises will have to be made, despite our members' primary concern for their patients' health."

An Australian Medical Association survey of doctors this week was swamped with 165 responses in the first 12 hours, most complaining about effects of staffing cuts on patient care.

WA president Richard Choong said the exemption for front-line workers was false assurance, because cuts to clerical staff, including those who filed patient records or wrote notes, could directly affect patients.

Doctors were reporting delays of six months between seeing patients in hospital and their GPs being notified of the results, which was potentially very dangerous.

"That sort of thing would be considered a sentinel event, because it is high risk and leads to high exposure to the doctors and poor clinical care," Dr Choong said.

The WA Health Department said it was committed to delivering safe and high-quality patient care, and hospitals ensured enough staff were in place at all times.

"Any nurse working authorised overtime hours, beyond their rostered shift, is entitled to payment in accordance with the relevant industrial agreement," a spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Kim Hames said the department was granted some job freeze exemptions, including recruiting front-line clinical staff and some patient support roles.

The West Australian

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