Health workers call for improved safety and 50-50 Commonwealth-State funding  

Published: 4 November 2021 

Brisbane nurses and midwives have voiced concerns about COVID-19 readiness in major metropolitan hospitals as part of a joint union campaign to highlight dire safety issues.

Health workers today called for increased funding, urgent intervention and long-awaited health reform to address serious safety issues in Queensland Health (QH) hospitals including the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH).

Public hospital staff from four unions are calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to introduce a permanent shared 50-50 Commonwealth-State funding model for public hospitals and to remove the 6.5% per annum cap on the efficient growth of activity-based services for 2022-2023 to 2024-2025 financial years. This would ensure funding is urgently channelled to support unprecedented demand on the health system. 

Staff and unions are also calling for both levels of government to commit to structural reform of health funding arrangements to support innovation, integrated care and policies to address demand and improve performance and capacity. 

Our acute and primary care health, aged care and disability systems are fragmented and as a result our public hospital system bears the brunt of the funding and policy system failures through increasing and unrelenting demand.  

The joint union call comes as a survey of Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) workers revealed 92 per cent of staff were not confident their facility would cope if a COVID-19 outbreak occurred in their region. 

A further 69 per cent of those surveyed did not believe their facilities were safe for patients or staff. 85 per cent said they were unsure or did not think their employer would listen if they identified a solution to improve health services.

Unions representing nurses, midwives, doctors, allied health professionals, paramedics and ambulance officers, operations staff, building, electrical, engineering and maintenance staff, administration workers and more have joined forces to launch the Health Needs Urgent Care campaign to identify immediate and structural solutions to address issues plaguing the system.  

These issues include ramping, patients being cared for in corridors, staff being forced to regularly work in unsafe and chaotic conditions and strong concerns for patient and staff safety. The unions are the Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union (QNMU), Together Union (Together), the United Workers Union (UWU) and the Electrical Trades Union (ETU).

Demand on already stretched Brisbane and all QH facilities is likely to increase if COVID-19 outbreaks occur.   
Unions are urging the Federal and State Governments to: 
  • Invest in the health system by committing to working with health workers on a joint, immediate solution 
  • Work with health workers to identify long term solutions for a sustainable health system and economy
  • Commit to smarter funding that is in the best interests of patient care and staff safety
  • Commit to keeping our health system in public hands, not privatising services or beds. 

The unions are calling for both the state and federal governments to meet with health workers in order to hear and act on their solutions for immediate and also structural change to the system. State Health Minister Yvette D’ath has agreed to meet with unions. 

Quotes attributable to health union leaders: 

Beth Mohle, Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (Secretary): 
“Nurses, midwives and health care staff see firsthand the impact of unprecedented demand on our health services and beds. Invaluable staff are burning out trying to provide quality care under extreme conditions. Our governments need to urgently address these issues and listen to our solutions so we can continue to provide the quality care Queenslanders deserve."

For further media comment, please contact Lou Robson 0422 550 278. 

Alex Scott, Together Union (Secretary): 
“At the moment, there simply aren’t enough staff to safely care for Queensland residents. Our Emergency Departments are overrun, hospitals are running out of beds, and workloads are unsustainable. It’s vital that our politicians value our work, listen to what health staff have to say and work with us on solutions so our patients don’t suffer unnecessarily due to understaffing and underfunding.” 

For further media comment, please contact Alex Scott 0438 876 659.

Adam Kerslake, United Workers Union (Public Sector Coordinator): 
“Our health system needs urgent investment and urgent care right now. We’re calling on the Federal and State governments to commit to actions that are in the best interests of patient care and staff safety.” 

For further media comment, please contact Laura Woodward on 1300 898 633.

Scott Reichman, Electrical Trades Union (Organiser): 
“Privatising beds and services isn’t a solution to achieving a sustainable public health system. There are other solutions to address the impacts of the unprecedented demand – governments just need to listen to workers.”

For further media comment, please contact Scott Reichman 0437 184 399.