The Whyalla Hospital was awash with a sea of purple as local nurses and midwives united to protest for an increase in staffing numbers and better working conditions.
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.
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.
ANMF (SA Branch) CEO 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.
A nurse participating in the local protest stressed that the rally wasn't about getting better pay and no patients were being put at risk due to the strike.
"We really don't have enough staff to cover every shift, every day. Most staff are doing double shifts because they don't want to leave patients without any staff," she said.
"We have to upskill staff as well, you have too many junior staff working with other junior staff, we need to maintain our senior staff in country areas.
"It's all about safe staffing and better working conditions."