Nurses fight Kirner
By Ray Fulcher
MELBOURNE — Nurses here are fighting moves by the state government to cut staffing in the geriatric care area by 50%, reduce standards of care for the elderly and cut working conditions.
The Kirner Labor government is seeking to impose a new, federally directed funding model — the Care Aggregated Module and Service Aggregated Module (CAM/SAM) — onto Extended Care Facilities (ECF) (formerly geriatric care hospitals), and it wants nurses and the elderly to pay for it.
The method is already used by private sector ECFs, and now the federal and Victorian governments want it extended into the public sphere.
Greg Loats, the Australian Nursing Federation's Victorian branch health and safety officer, says there are major problems with the system. "We trialed it last month, and it was a fiasco. It would mean a 50% cut in staff", and there was a sudden, dramatic rise in accidents among staff.
Nurses are concerned that CAM/SAM would mean lower standards of care for patients and heavier workloads. The ANF has responded with an industrial campaign pressing the government for extra funding to keep staffing at present levels. A mass meeting on May 13 voted to impose bans on admissions to all ECFs if the dispute wasn't resolved by May 26.
These bans are now in force throughout the state with the support of the federal and other state branches of the ANF. With the largest public geriatric care system, Victoria is regarded as crucial to the national situation.
Nurses in Geelong and elsewhere imposed bans so patients couldn't be off-loaded onto them, leaving the government with no option but to use acute-care facilities. The nurses cut off this option as well with bans on elective surgery in major hospitals.
Loats says the nurses' meetings have been large and overwhelmingly supportive of the union's stand. He also says many nurses have joined the union during the dispute.