Gladstone Hospital staff hit breaking point
IT'S an issue that's been simmering for "18 months to two years" and it's likely to come to a head next week when union and CQ Health representatives meet regarding work conditions at Gladstone Hospital.
Operational staff including cleaners, caterers, ward persons, security and administration staff attended a meeting in front of the hospital on Thursday morning facilitated by representatives from the Australian Workers Union and Together.
Workers have raised issues regarding workloads, safety and security at the hospital.
Union representatives claim they've stated these issues to management on several occasions at its monthly consultative forum but say they have fallen on deaf ears.
AWU representative Tony Beers said Thursday's meeting came as a result of hospital management failing to recognise and deal with complaints over front-line services.
"The reality for workers here is that they've been up against it for a long time," Mr Beers said.
"The needs of the community have grown and as a consequence of that they are putting on more services in the clinical areas - specialists and nursing - but are failing to deal with the most fundamental front-line services of catering, cleaning, ward persons and all those other services that fit in when someone attends the hospital.
"All the things administration staff do, they haven't increased the number of workers to do it."
Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service chief executive Steve Williamson said Gladstone Hospital had increased its full-time equivalent of operational staff by 16.1 per cent since June 30, 2016.
"The increasing demands on our staff are continually monitored and assessed as we grow our services," Mr Williamson said.
"CQ Health is aware of some current workload concerns and is working with staff and unions to address them.
"A meeting between health service and union representatives will be held in Gladstone on Tuesday to identify all outstanding issues, including any unresolved workload issues, and develop a clear action plan."
Mr Williamson also stated "two specific joint management and union consultative forums exist to consider issues relating to administrative and operational matters".
"From time to time, workload issues have been raised at that forum and largely these are addressed as they are raised," he said.
"As chief executive my greatest priorities are firstly to deliver great care across Central Queensland and secondly to ensure our staff have the right support and the right tools to deliver that great care."
STAFF WALKOUT THE LAST RESORT
THE Together union is hopeful a resolution can be reached between CQ Health and Gladstone Hospital operational staff over pay and work conditions in an effort to avoid a staff walkout.
Together regional organiser Ashleigh Saunders said there were not only concerns over the physical safety of staff at the hospital but also fears for their mental wellbeing.
"Our members have phenomenal workloads and I think there is an emphasis in a hospital setting that it's mainly doctors and nurses that carry the load," she said.
"But if our members don't make sure a chart is in the right place, at the right time, it could mean the difference between removing a right kidney or a left kidney."
Ms Saunders and AWU representative Tony Beers would not rule out worker walkouts if staff issues weren't addressed.
"We have an obligation to make sure our members are safe," Ms Saunders asked.
"It was really hard for them to stop what they were doing (Thursday) morning and come here because it meant their workload gets bigger and it's a caring environment and they don't want to impact patients."
CQ Health boss Steve Williamson said the department was "committed to building a great place to work and supporting staff to provide a top-quality health service to the community".
"This is reflected in our recruitment successes where we are hiring more doctors, nurses, midwives and mental health clinicians," he said.
"We recognise that the extra services these additional clinicians will provide will need support staff to help in their delivery.
"I am very proud of the work our team in Gladstone does every day to provide great health care to their community."