Cairns hospital's Emergency Department entry. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Cairns hospital's Emergency Department entry. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

Hospital ‘chronically understaffed and overloaded’

NURSES claim the Far North's hospitals and health services are "chronically understaffed and overloaded", as a Code Yellow was declared at Cairns Hospital on Monday.

The Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union will take on the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service in the Queensland Industrial Relation Commission next week over grievances about unsafe workloads in the hospital's emergency department.

It comes as the union confirmed the community need for health services exceeded the hospital's ability to deliver those services on Monday, resulting in the Code Yellow being declared by hospital management.

Union acting secretary Sandra Eales said local staff had been calling for urgent changes to staff numbers and workplace practices in and around Cairns for more than a year.

""Staff are extremely fatigued because they are working excessive overtime in an attempt to fill considerable staffing gaps throughout the region," she said.

"They are increasingly concerned understaffing and associated excessive overtime could impact patient safety.

"However, Hospital and Health Service management have not responded adequately to these concerns.

"Staff continue to raise these issues at a local level using appropriate processes but their calls for help have not been adequately actioned by management."

She said nurses working in the hospital ED had filed with the union more than 70 workload forms detailing workplace issues within the ward, since early 2018.

The union is seeking the immediate addition of a minimum 4.8 full-time equivalent nurses, continued eight-hour morning and evening shifts, the continued roster of 10-hour night shifts, and the immediate implementation of industrially mandated workload management practices.

It is also seeking numerous additional positions and skill mix changes that are required across the Far North, to improve patient and staff safety.

CHHHS has been contacted for comment.

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