Nurses to rally against unsafe conditions at St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital

Published: 29 November 2022 

NURSES will today rally against unsafe conditions at St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital in Brisbane.

Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) Secretary Beth Mohle said nurses at the UnitingCare Health (UCH) owned and run St Andrew’s Hospital were concerned about unsafe staffing levels and associated patient outcomes at the private facility. 

Staff at the hospital are also calling for improved pay and conditions as part of ongoing UCH Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) negotiations. 

Ms Mohle said private UCH patients were paying for quality care – yet conditions at St Andrew’s in Spring Hill, the Wesley Hospital in Auchenflower and other UCH facilities were not as regulated as those at Queensland Health (QH) public hospitals nearby.

“Nurses have repeatedly called for the introduction of nurse-to-patient ratios at St Andrew’s Hospital,” Ms Mohle said.

“They are deeply concerned about understaffing, unsafe workloads and the safety of their patients and colleagues.

“However, UnitingCare Health have refused to consider improved safety measures and other conditions.

“In the first year alone, nurse-to-patient ratios at Queensland Health facilities saved 145 lives and up to $81 million. Private patients paying for care should have access to the same quality of care as patients in Queensland Health hospitals nearby.”

The Palaszczuk Government made nurse-to-patient ratios law in 2016. Ratios mandate the number of patients that can safely be allocated to a single Registered Nurse (RN). Currently ratios do not exist in private hospitals which are regulated by the federal government. 

UCH owns and operates St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital, The Wesley Hospital, Buderim Private Hospital on the Sunshine Coast and St Stephen’s Hospital in Hervey Bay. The UCH website states: “This year the group of hospitals will admit just under 125,000 Queenslanders and perform more than 88,000 surgical procedures.”

“Nurses will today rally outside St Andrew’s Hospital to highlight concerns around safety, pay and conditions at UnitingCare Health private hospitals,” Ms Mohle said.

“We call on the media and all Queenslanders to please hear these concerns and reconsider their continued care with UnitingCare Queensland if positive change isn’t made.”

The QNMU has been bargaining with UCH for five weeks. However, UCH have refused to consider ratios, the provision of cost of living adjustments, improved pandemic and disaster leave, the recognition of Nurse Practitioners (NPs), matching QH pay and conditions outlined in EB11, casual loading, professional development and overtime. The QMNU is advised changes to on call conditions may be under consideration

The UCH agreement expired in 2021. UCH gave a 1.5% administrative increase in 2021, and another 2% administrative increase in 2022. Nurses and midwives are seeking backpay and a wage rise that recognises cost of living increases in line with the QH pay offer.

While Queensland Health (QH) have just successfully completed bargaining for a new three-year agreement, UCH have been reluctant to commence Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) negotiations with staff. Staff at UCH private hospitals in southeast Queensland advised the QNMU they wanted to improve conditions and pay at UCH facilities.

As a result, the QNMU organised a petition on behalf of members and made an application to the Fair Work Commission (FWC). Thanks to the hard work of members, the QNMU was successful in getting UCH to commence negotiations. The QNMU commends members at the private facility for bravely campaigning for change. Negotiations remain ongoing.

“UnitingCare Health appear unwilling to acknowledge the very real concerns of their nurses and midwives,” Ms Mohle said.

“These concerns involve the wellbeing of those in their care and their colleagues – and the distinct possibility valuable and hard-working nurses and midwives will be forced to seek work elsewhere if ongoing negotiations fail.”

Media are invited to attend the rally on Tuesday 29 November at 3pm outside St Andrew’s Hospital at 457 Wickham Terrace, Spring Hill. A rally was held outside the Wesley Hospital last week. The rallies could continue at other UCH facilities, with members at other sites eager to demonstrate. 
Media contact: 0422 550 278