South Australia's nurses and midwives take stop-work action

28 October 2019

Nurses and midwives across South Australia are taking industrial action to protest the Marshall Government’s lack of action on their enterprise bargaining agreement—a document designed to ensure the delivery of safe and effective care to South Australians into the future.

The union representing South Australia’s public sector nurses and midwives, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch), says the bargaining claims have three major themes:

  • Safe staffing and skills mix to meet the needs of patients now and in the future;
  • Ensuring the availability of enough nurses and midwives in the future, given 50 per cent of the workforce is expected to retire in the coming years; and
  • Attraction and retention of nurses and midwives through better incentives and improved safety and working conditions.

Thousands of staff—from more than 120 metropolitan and regional public health care sites and services—will be participating in varying degrees of industrial action from this week.

Nursing and midwifery staff at larger public health care sites and services will take stop-work action during double-staffed handover periods to ensure continuity of care to patients during one-hour protests.

Staff at smaller sites, particularly those in regional areas, will be wearing campaign apparel to champion the cause from within hospitals and health services.

ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM says nurses and midwives across the State are frustrated at having to take such drastic action to shine a spotlight on patient and staff safety.

“Putting patient care first is what nurses and midwives do for a living, but they would much prefer to be doing that from inside hospitals and health facilities,” Ms Dabars says.

“It is a sad indictment on any government when its nurses and midwives decide there is no other option than to leave their place of care to highlight the patient safety implications of what is being proposed.”  

Regional nurses and midwives are particularly concerned about the effects of the government’s proposed staffing models and lack of commitment to attract and retain staff in rural and remote areas.  

“The State Government is proposing models that would permit staffing levels to fall below the current agreed minimum or cap staffing to prevent any increases even if patient conditions deteriorate. This would place staff and patients at further risk from the effects of stress, unmanageable workloads and burnout.”

“The State Government has also failed to commit to offering any incentives to attract and retain nurses and midwives in regional areas of the State.”

The actions follow months of enterprise agreement negotiations, during which the State Government rejected almost every patient and staff safety measure being sought by public sector nurses and midwives.  

“Nurses and midwives are taking this action now in the hope the State Government will reconsider its position on critical measures that will impact the quality of health care in South Australia.”  

“Nurses and midwives are standing up to ensure our public health services are safely staffed, adequately resourced and offer working conditions that attract and retain people in the professions. Without such a commitment from the State Government, it is patients who bear the ultimate cost.”

The current enterprise agreement for public sector nurses and midwives expired last month.

Sites participating in action include:

Stop-work action:

  • Lyell McEwin Hospital
  • Barmera Health Service
  • Riverland General Hospital, Berri
  • Women's & Children's Hospital
  • Port Pirie Regional Health Service
  • Naracoorte Health Service
  • St Margaret's Rehabilitation Centre
  • Whyalla Hospital and Health Service
  • Noarlunga
  • Adaire Clinic
  • South Coast District
  • Royal Adelaide Hospital
  • Gumeracha
  • Port Augusta
  • Flinders Medical Centre
  • TQEH
  • Western Intermediate Care Centre
  • Western Community MH Centre
  • Gawler Health Service
  • Wallaroo
  • Murray Bridge
  • Mt Barker
  • Northern Community MH Salisbury
  • Strathalbyn Health Services
  • Strathalbyn Aged Care Kalimna
  • Mount Gambier
  • Inner Southern Community MH

In-house activity only:

  • Renmark/Paringa District Hospital
  • Loxton Hospital
  • Pinnaroo Soldier’s Memorial Hospital
  • Lameroo District Hospital
  • Karoonda and District Soldier’s Memorial Hospital
  • Murray Mallee Community Health Service
  • Riverland Regional Community Health
  • Bordertown Memorial Hospital
  • Coorong Health Service (Meningie & Tailem Bend)
  • Kingston Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital
  • Meningie and Districts Memorial Hospital and Health Services
  • Millicent & District Hospital and Health Service
  • Penola War Memorial Hospital
  • Tailem Bend District Hospital
  • Kangaroo Island Health Service
  • Mount Pleasant District Hospital
  • Noarlunga Health Village
  • South Coast District Hospital
  • Southern Fleurieu Health Service
  • Older Persons Community Mental Health - Springbank House
  • Eudunda & Kapunda Health Service - Kapunda
  • Eudunda & Kapunda Health Service -Eudunda
  • Breast Screen SA
  • SA Pathology
  • Pregnancy Advisory Centre
  • Peterborough
  • Snowtown
  • Burra Hospital & Health Service
  • Southern Yorke Peninsula Health - Yorketown
  • Waikerie
  • Barossa Area Health - Angaston
  • Barossa Area Health - Tanunda
  • Melaleuca Court Nursing Home
  • Ceduna
  • Elliston
  • Hawker
  • Leigh Creek
  • Booleroo
  • Orroroo DH
  • Balaklava Campus
  • Riverton Campus
  • Southern Intermediate Care Centre
  • Disability SA (Highgate Park)
  • Kimba
  • Wudinna
  • Tumby Bay
  • Cummins
  • Metro Referral Unit (SALHN)