PAT Jackson is sick of waiting for the problem to be solved. Now she wants the community to know the truth about nurses leaving Gladstone Hospital.
The former cardiac rehabilitation nurse quit the hospital in late September last year, tired and utterly frustrated by a system she says is dysfunctional.
That is not the worst part. The most worrying part of her story is that many other nurses have done the same, leaving question marks over whether problems at the hospital are driving away talented health professionals.
"Over a period of time, my workload was increasing and in fact my workload had probably doubled," Mrs Jackson said.
"But no one would listen to me, and when I would say to them, 'I need some more hours to get on top of my workload', (they would say to me), "work smarter, prioritise your work, triage your patients."
"It was just an insult to my professional intelligence as a nurse."
The Observer also spoke to former Gladstone Hospital nurse Judy Pickering, who said she quit late last year out of frustration. She said others have done the same.
Mrs Jackson said she had waited for progress to be made, but in the end she was at her wits end. She now believes it is time for the issue to be made public.
She said complaints by nurses were not taken seriously. "Notoriously with Queensland Health, as soon as you complain about them, if you work there as an employee you get slapped over the wrist and told you are in breach of conduct."
"If you resign and leave and then complain about what's happened there, you are (called) bitter and twisted," she said.
When Mrs Jackson left the hospital, she says she completed an exit interview and filled out paperwork for feedback. She listed her concerns, but nothing ever came of them.
A nurse of 40 years experience, she worked at the Gladstone Hospital from 1996.
She says a lack of resources and some overly bureaucratic processes made it impossible to keep on top of the workload in a sustainable way.
"You just sort of get on with it," she said. "You have to. But increasingly, I was just drowning in the work."
Mrs Jackson said it was painstakingly difficult getting the hospital to backfill her position when she took leave, meaning there was a huge volume of work to catch up on when she returned. She also said new systems of collecting data and statistics were becoming more cumbersome and she often felt as though she was spending more time recording the details of her work than actually getting on top of her work.
"They expected me to run a champagne service on a lemonade budget," she said, likening the functioning of the hospital to an episode of Faulty Towers.
Judy Pickering, like Mrs Jackson, says she and other nurses felt undervalued by the system.
She and her husband own a home on Facing Island. They wanted to rent in Gladstone, because she worked at the hospital, but there was no rental subsidy and she couldn't afford the rental prices needed.
"Morale was very low," she said.
She worries about what will become of the hospital over the next few years if things keep going this way.
This story, says Mrs Jackson, is not about herself or any one nurse. It is about a pattern of nurses at the hospital becoming disillusioned by system they work in.
She has spoken to other colleagues who do not wish to speak out, concerned about consequences.
It looks like a disheartening situation for professionals who joined the trade to make a difference.
"I did (the job) because I loved being a nurse," Mrs Jackson said. "I became a nurse (40 years ago because I loved) the idea of caring for sick people."
"I had actually decided long before 40 years ago. I was a kid at school when I decided to be a nurse. The idea of caring for people at some of the worst times of their life, it appealed to me."
Mrs Jackson said that was the motivation for all nurses getting into the profession, and it was the motivation for putting up with problems, and the commitment of the nurses at Gladstone Hospital was outstanding.
But in the end, she says pressure takes its toll. She said the burden of a ridiculous workload affects the way people work.
"I was unable to think clearly," she said. "I couldn't sleep properly. I'd wake up at 2 o'clock in the morning and think 'Oh my God, I've got to do this, this and this.'"
"When it is affecting how you feel yourself and your sleep and your health, that's when you have a problem."
"Morale is very low (among nurses at the hospital)."
"I have been told since I left that they were going to put a working party together (to address low morale), but someone decided there was not a problem with morale and cancelled the working party."