The nurses’ union has issued a 10-point plan to address the strain on the Perth Children’s Hospital emergency department following the tragic death of a seven-year-old girl who waited two hours before getting treatment.
Australian Nursing Federation WA state secretary Mark Olson sent the plan to Health Minister Roger Cook on Thursday morning, calling for a ratio of one nurse for every three patients.
There were about 200 patients at the PCH emergency department on Saturday when Aishwarya Aswath was initially considered a non-urgent case before she rapidly declined despite pleas for help from her distraught parents. Four of 18 emergency department doctors were off sick at the time.
The nurses’ new plan also calls for a rapid recruitment turnaround of four weeks maximum from advertising to getting boots on the ground.
“The implementation of staff allocation of one nurse for every three patients, this will safely, properly regulate nursing workflows in the area,” Mr Olson said.
“It will essentially add around three to five nurses per shift.”
Mr Olson said he was already getting requests from nurses in other emergency departments in WA to put together a 10-point plan for them too.
Mr Cook said he had a good relationship with Mr Olson and would sit down with senior health staff and the union to work through the ideas.
“They have obviously put some significant thought into their plans,” he said.
Nurses’ 10-point list
1. Implement a staff allocation of one nurse for every three patients
2. Shift coordinators and triage nurses not included in floor numbers of dot point one – which means they don’t take a patient load
3. Supernumerary resuscitation team – minimum of four nurses for the resuscitation team would also be available to assist the floor staff with category two patients and patients with behavioural problems
4. Engagement from the PCH executive team on a PCH emergency department taskforce that includes nursing representation. This will be a staff-led taskforce with key performance indicators to manage the transition and oversee the implementation of the above dot points as well as looking at ways to recruit additional staff to the department in a timely manner
5. Double the number of staff development nurses in the emergency department
6. Open the paediatric critical care unit to its full capabilities so that it can function as an intensive care unit and high dependency unit
7. A clearly articulated winter-surge bed management strategy that is published and available to all staff and the community
8. Fast track recruitment with a maximum turnaround time of four weeks. That is no more than four weeks from application to working the first shift
9. 3C (the short stay surgical unit) that currently closes at 3.30pm on Saturday needs to be kept open 24-7 on the weekend and staffed appropriately as this will reduce access block
10. Additional numbers of specifically trained paediatric security staff for Perth Children’s Hospital
Mr Olson revealed to 6PR’s Mornings with Liam Bartlett on Wednesday he had raised red flags about the state of the PCH emergency department with Mr Cook a week before the WA election, which came after nurses raised concerns with hospital executives in December.
“When I have these conversations, it’s about saying, ‘This is a problem’,” Mr Olson said.
“And I said, ‘I’m going to meet with the nurses in the next week or two and I just don’t want you to be the last person to know about this’.”
In a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Cook denied receiving a specific phone call in the last month about concerns at PCH and staff worries when questioned by Nine News Perth reporter Gary Adshead.
Mr Cook released a statement on Wednesday acknowledging he had been contacted by Mr Olson.
“I appreciated Mark raising his views and we agreed to talk again once he had further discussions with his members,” he said.