The South Australian Employment Tribunal has ruled planned industrial action in Adelaide hospitals can go ahead from tomorrow.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation is protesting against overcrowding in emergency departments, saying the hospital system is at breaking point.
The State Government lodged an urgent appeal with the tribunal late on Friday to try to have the action called off.
But the union’s state secretary, Elizabeth Dabars, said after a marathon hearing yesterday, the tribunal ruled the action could go ahead as long as patient care was not jeopardised.
Nurses will hold protests outside major Adelaide hospitals from Monday to Wednesday and try to force the cancellation of some overnight elective surgeries from Thursday.
“It is a successful outcome insofar as we’ve been able to demonstrate that our action won’t compromise patient care and we will continue with our action as originally planned starting from Monday,” Ms Dabars said.
However, Health Minister Stephen Wade said the ruling restricted the union’s blanket ban on any elective surgeries, with any cancellations to be approved by hospital management.
“Clearly, the tribunal’s decision today indicates, whether it was intended or not, the bans proposed by the nurses’ union threatened patient safety,” he said.
“The Government had to stand up for that — we’ll always stand up for patient safety and we’re very pleased that the tribunal has supported our position.”
Government moves to fix overcrowding issues
The issue came to a head two weeks ago when one ambulance crew had to wait for seven hours outside an Adelaide hospital before their patient was admitted.
Since then, more than 30 patients have been transferred to country hospitals and 20 beds have been made available for public patients at the Flinders Private and Calvary hospitals.
Mr Wade labelled the industrial action an unhelpful distraction.
“We’re continuing to engage clinicians, management and employee organisations who are willing to work with us on looking at solutions for problems in the health system,” he said.
“The ANMF seems to be focused on industrial action. That’s their call.”
Ms Dabars said the process had been frustrating.
“I said to the Minister directly, ‘Why are you investing all the time and money into taking us down to the tribunal or fighting this rather than investing the money into patients and safe patient care?'” she said.