Cook Government must protect nurses and public from unsafe hours

WA Liberal Leader and Shadow Health Minister Libby Mettam has called on the WA Labor Government to immediately overhaul fatigue management in public hospitals to ensure nurses are not working unsafe hours.

Ms Mettam said fatigue management regulations existed in many other sectors, including transport and mining, however nurses in our public hospitals were regularly working double and sometimes triple shifts, putting both themselves and patients at risk.

Responding to reports of a specialist paediatric nurse at Albany Hospital working a 29.5-hour shift to ensure continuity of care amid a staff shortage, Ms Mettam said nurses were consistently being asked to work unsafe hours, jeopardising both their safety and that of the public.

“While I appreciate her commitment to her patients and colleagues, no health worker should be put in a position where this is even an option,” Ms Mettam said.

“While double shifts were rare eight years ago, it is concerning that they are now commonplace in our public hospital sector.

“We know that WA nurses will always try to go above and beyond to ensure patients are cared for, but the WA Labor Government cannot continue to ask and expect this critical sector to work double and triple shifts.

“Working a 24-hour shift is incredibly unsafe for both patients and staff. I doubt any other industry would allow staff to operate in such conditions without strict fatigue management protocols in place yet the health sector is continually expected to do so.

“There is a clear need for some more stringent controls and protocols around this dangerous practice but despite all the Minister’s talking points and media releases on fixing staff shortages and reviewing these practices, the reality on the ground remains the same.

“The WA health system remains critically under-resourced, and patient and staff safety is being compromised.

“Until there is some clear action from the Minister, it appears that our frontline health workers will continue to shoulder the burden of a system in crisis.”

Ms Mettam said the Opposition also supported calls for Worksafe inquiries into two specific incidents and urged the WA Labor Government to urgently progress those inquiries and promptly release the findings.