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Nurses hold out on work bans
Nurses at Monday's stopwork meeting. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

WA's nursing union has rejected an Industrial Relations Commission recommendation to lift work bans that have closed dozens of public hospital beds, saying its members need to vote on the issue.

Australian Nursing Federation secretary Mark Olson said the commission had made a recommendation rather than an order that nurses stop industrial action that has closed one in five beds in many wards in the past two days.

It came after the Health Department sought an urgent hearing in the commission amid concerns lives were being put at risk because seriously ill patients were waiting too long to get beds.

A meeting of 1000 nurses and midwives voted on Monday to close beds and cancel one elective surgery for every five in protest against the department refusing to make a formal offer for a new wages agreement due to take effect from July.

The department says it has received legal advice it cannot make an offer before the State election.

Mr Olson said he told the commission yesterday the decision to close beds could not be lifted unless agreed to by a majority of members at a mass meeting.

"I have also said that I will not be going to a meeting of our members empty-handed," he said.

"But we have given an undertaking to the commission that we may be able to release some beds to relieve the pressure in some areas and we will liaise directly with our members in those areas."

Mr Olson said the Health Department could relieve pressure in emergency departments by cancelling elective surgery.

Director-general of health Kim Snowball said the parties had gone to the independent umpire and it had made its recommendation. If the ANF ignored that, the department would seek an order today.

"I'm monitoring the compliance with that recommendation and getting advice from each hospital about whether in fact those bans are being lifted," he said. "If they don't comply with the recommendations, we'll be seeking orders."