$150 million worth of cuts to the state's Local Health Districts will just put more pressure on current staff and compromise patient care according to the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA).
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The association claims the cuts for this financial year, revealed in leaked documents, are affecting hospitals across the state including Shoalhaven and has called on the Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard, to urgently explain the $150 million shortfall.
NSW Health denies there is an issue, saying there were "no budget cuts", the health budget "was a record $24 billion" there was "no reductions in frontline staff" with health districts encouraged to "to drive efficiencies in back office functions."
NSWNMA general secretary, Brett Holmes, said documents leaked to the state opposition reveal the Ministry of Health (NSW Health) must achieve total cost savings of $252 million during 2019-20, in order to deliver on the Berejiklian Government's election commitments.
"Despite the Health Minister claiming a record $26.7 billion health budget since June, the reality inside many public hospitals is already dire," Mr Holmes said.
He said details revealed by Labor leader Jodi McKay and Shadow Health Minister Ryan Park confirms the experience members working on the frontline of public health.
"For months we've had reports of horrendous short staffing issues and widespread accounts of nurse staffing vacancies being left unfilled for weeks on end," he said.
"According to the documents, $150 million of the $252 million in cost savings has been specifically placed on the state's 15 Local Health Districts and three Specialty Health Networks to find.
"The idea this amount could be saved entirely from procurements is, quite simply, farcical. Clearly, it has spilled into current staffing vacancies, as well as cuts to frontline staff, under the guise of staffing profile improvements."
He said the association had been told months ago of districts having to find widespread savings, raising the issues of understaffing, positions being cut and other staffing plans.
"It is happening across the state," he said.
"Ultimately it's just putting more pressure on the current staff and compromising patient care," he said.
"These cuts will ultimately put patients at risk. More and more, nurses are being expected to carry unreasonable workloads.
More and more, nurses are being expected to carry unreasonable workloads. The more staff that aren't replaced, the less patient care is available.- NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes
"The more staff that aren't replaced, the less patient care is available.
"It means things get missed. Mistakes get made. It's starting to show up in a number of areas.
"The pressure on health staff means they miss things. They are forced to cut corners, there are not enough numbers."
Mr Holmes said when NSW Health was asked questions directly, they were told there had been a 4.5 per cent increase in the state's health budget, a record health investment, and were asked why they couldn't just be happy with 5000 extra nurses and midwives over the next four years.
"At this rate, the Berejiklian Government will have driven 5000 nurses and midwives out of their respective professions due to burnout and stress, as they struggle to provide safe patient care inside our public hospitals," he said.
"People accessing our public hospitals deserve to know they're walking into a properly resourced, adequately funded health facility, not a hospital struggling under the constraints of treasury caps.
"We were told the extra nurses started rolling out from October 1 at a number of selected, smaller hospital with an increase in nursing hours per patient from five to six a day.
There are no reductions in frontline staff and as per government commitments, NSW Health will recruit an additional 8300 front line staff over the next four years.- NSW Health
"We haven't seen the detail about how successful that has been.
"It shouldn't be impossible to achieve but it feels like in order to pay for the 5000 extra nurses they are taking the money from the budget."
The Secretary for Health said all health districts and speciality health networks received budget increases for the 19/20 financial year.
"There were no budget cuts and the health budget was a record $24 billion," a NSW Health spokesperson said.
"The terminology used in the slide is incorrect - there is no treasury cap of $252 million for health and therefore there is no subsequent increase in the cap over the next three years.
"Wise use of health funding is important and all districts and networks are encouraged to drive efficiencies in back office functions to produce the best use of health funding for where it matters most - our patients.
"There are no reductions in frontline staff and as per government commitments, NSW Health will recruit an additional 8300 front line staff over the next four years."
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