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Thousands of nurses in NSW spent their morning walking out on Tuesday 15th of February outside the State Parliament. However, this was not for their health and fitness. Nurses protested for better pay and against stretched staffing levels, with the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (Union) demanding mandated nurse-to-patient ratios and a pay rise higher than 2.5%. It comes after constant reports of highly understaffed yet filled hospitals with nurses working overtime and junior nurses taking on senior roles, all in PPE. To top it off, the NSW Government implemented changes in nurse close contact rules earlier in the year to fill in the gaps at hospitals. Nurses were, in short, pushed to their limits.

"We're running into double times, overtime, we're doing a morning into a late, a late into a night, doing stupid hours, because we want our patients to be OK, but that's not OK anymore,” stated Grace Langlands, a member of the Union. This depicts the constant pressure nurses constantly faced, especially in the past two years under the pandemic.

On Monday, an order was issued by the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) to call off the strike, which aligned with the NSW Government’s concerns on state health service disruptions. Yet, the Union proceeded to lead the strike, with workers from over 150 public hospitals in NSW participating. This occurred in a staggered fashion to lessen the disruptions on patients. In this structure, ‘skeleton’ staff including life preserving staff and some staff on shifts remained at hospitals.

"...nurses in the ICU and emergency department...can't even stop to go to the toilet.”

Such comments depict a rather degraded state of NSW’s healthcare system. Accordingly, an emergency department nurse from a Wollongong hospital commented that the supposedly world-class healthcare system “feels pretty piss-poor”. With a similar sentiment amongst NSW nurses, the State Government has become pressured to focus on the healthcare system and improve nurses’ working conditions.


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