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Australia: NSW nurses speak on crisis in healthcare at fourth state-wide strike

Australia: NSW nurses speak on crisis in healthcare at fourth state-wide strike
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Thousands of public sector nurses in the state of New South Wales (NSW) took part in a state-wide strike on Wednesday.

In a long-running industrial dispute with the NSW state government, they are demanding nurse to patient ratios to deal with the overcrowding in hospitals and unrelenting workload due to the gutting of funding to public health and massive staff shortage. Workers are also demanding pay increases to offset rampant inflation.

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) campaigned among workers at strike rallies. The SEP raised the broader political issues, including the role of all of the official parties and the unions in enforcing a homicidal “let it rip” COVID policy that has brought the already crisis-ridden public healthcare system to a breaking point.

The SEP warned the NSWNMA, which has isolated nurses for the best part of a year, is now preparing to impose a sell-out deal that would resolve nothing. SEP campaigners called for nurses to take matters into their own hands by forming independent rank-and-file committees and uniting with other sections of workers, in health, education and more broadly.

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Victoria, a first-year nursing student nurse whose mother is also a nurse, told the WSWS that students “do lots of placements and I’ve found that on placement we have been used to fill in short staffing. They use us but we have little to no experience, which is not safe for us, not safe for the patients, not safe for anyone.

Victoria [Photo: WSWS]

“COVID has absolutely made things worse.” Speaking on the ending of a mandatory isolation period for COVID infected individuals, Victoria said, “now they want more people to come back to work rather than being home and taking the time off that they need, which isn’t safe. This serves the hospitals and management so they can pay less by having their full-time employees back instead of being at home rather than having to pay agency workers or temporary staff who have double pay rates.”

The WSWS explained that NSW Labor leader Chris Minns has opposed mandated staffing ratios. “I think it’s awful. It shows that they don’t really care,” Victoria said.

On the cuts to healthcare by the federal Labor government in its recent budget she commented: “They put so much money into their own back pockets and into things like coal mining and oils and unsustainable energy and taking that money from nursing and from healthcare where it needs to be. I think that budget needs to be reviewed and I think they need to get their priorities in order.

“Workers should stick together. Nurses, teachers, rail workers, we all get paid crap. We all get disrespected by the government. I think teaming up would be a great idea. I think all health workers as well should team up.”

On the issue of making a break with the union bureaucracy and nurses establishing their own rank and file committees, Victoria said, “I’m not very educated on that, so I can’t give you a really in-depth answer. But it makes sense to me. If you keep getting let down by the support system that’s supposed to help you, what else are you supposed to do?”

Rumbidzai [Photo: WSWS]

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