The Guardian August 15, 2001


Nurses force Victorian Government into talks

The determined and resolute action by Victoria's nurses in defence of 
the crucial and hard-won nurse- patient ratios in the State's public 
hospitals has forced the Bracks' Government to back away from its planned 
Federal Court injunction. Health Minister John Thwaites has finally agreed 
to discussions with the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) after stalling 
for more than a month.

Nurses met this week to decide on lifting their bans, which included the 
closure of 820 hospital beds across the State. All emergency admissions 
were excluded from the bans and no patients were put at risk. The union 
warned there was no guarantee that nurses would agree to lift the bans.

"All along I've been saying you're not going to resolve this dispute 
through court actions", said ANF State Secretary, Belinda Morieson. "You 
can only resolve it if people of good will sit down at the negotiating 
table."

On August 9 more than 2000 nurses attended state-wide stop work meetings 
and voted to close one in three public hospital beds in a last bid to 
protect nurse-patient ratios (see next week's Guardian for 
background to dispute). 

The ratio system, which the Government has undermined by shifting funding 
meant to fill nurse vacancies to other parts of the system, is essential to 
the maintenance of nursing numbers, the provision of quality care and the 
overall operations of the health system.

The Government left nurses with no choice: "By closing beds, which is 
something nurses do not do easily, nurses are demonstrating their 
commitment to the community and the public health system and they are sure 
the community will support their action", said Ms Morieson at the August 9 
mass meeting.

She pointed to the danger to the health system posed by the Government's 
action. "If the State Government and the hospital employer representatives 
succeed in their attempts to abolish the principle of nurse-patient ratios 
then more than 3000 nurses will resign and the health system will 
collapse."

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