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Towns left without nurses

Dominique BayensMidwest Times
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Camera IconFile image. Credit: The West Australian

The shires of Yalgoo, Cue and Mount Magnet want the State Government to increase nurse numbers after all three towns were left with unmanned nursing posts on Monday.

Because of lack of staffing, people requiring health assistance are forced to travel to Meekatharra or Geraldton hospital when the nursing posts are closed.

Shire of Cue chief executive Rob Madson said there had been instances where potentially life-threatening accidents had occurred and the nursing post was unattended. “Last year we had a couple of instances with fatalities and other injuries and on both occasions there was no nurse in attendance,” he said.

“It’s unacceptable to be without any health support and we would be trying to make sure that situation doesn’t occur into the future. But there’s not a great deal of people out here so maybe our voice isn’t strong enough.”

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According to Mr Madson, when the Shire is given notice from WA Country Health Service that the nursing post will be closed, the local Member has been able to call on the health minister to ensure it stays open. However no advance notice was given for the Monday closure.

“Communication from WACHS is disappointing, it would be nice to know that these things were happening,” he said.

Member for North West Central Vince Catania said the lack of nursing services in the Mid West was unacceptable.

“There seems to be a recurring theme of gaps in the service that Department of Health supply for people that live out in towns like Cue,” he said. “The policy needs to change like it has for police; where you can’t have one police officer based at a station, you have to have three. The same should exist for nurses,” he said.

Shire of Mt Magnet president Jorgen Jensen said it had been an ongoing problem with nurses not staying on for longer than six or eight months.

Shire of Yalgoo president Neil Grinham said the town was often without a nurse, putting pressure on St John Volunteer Ambulance officers. “It does put a heavy load back on our volunteers in St John because they’ve incidents and there’s no actual nurse to attend with them,” he said.

Mr Grinham said the Shire had considered hiring a nurse privately. “We’ve considered it as an option but really it is the department’s responsibility, not ours as a local government,” he said.

According to WACHS, it staffs nursing posts in Cue and Yalgoo and the Mt Magnet Health centre from 9am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday, with a registered nurse available for outside hours emergency care.

WACHS acting regional director Marie Norris confirmed WACHS Midwest was unable to source coverage for the Cue and Yalgoo sites on Monday. “Mt Magnet Health Centre was manned by administrative staff in the morning, who were able to contact the doctor from the local Aboriginal medical service, and returned to usual nurse coverage in the afternoon,” she said.

“The majority of nursing positions at these sites are permanently filled. If staff take planned or unplanned leave, or are required to attend overnight callouts, every effort is made to secure a replacement via agency staff or staff from other Mid West health services.”

Ms Norris said services at Yalgoo returned to normal yesterday and the nurse would resume services in Cue today.

“In response to this unusual event, key service partners including St John Ambulance, Health Direct and the local Aboriginal Health Services were made aware, and plans were put in place for patients to be transferred to either Mullewa or Meekatharra via St John Ambulance in an emergency. However this was not required,” she said.

“WACHS Midwest is recruiting for nursing positions throughout the region that, once filled, will assist in providing backfill if staff take leave.”

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