The Australian Medical Association has thrown its support behind WA’s embattled nurses in their fight for better working conditions, with the State’s top doctor urging the McGowan Government to work with the union.
Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson and Premier Mark McGowan said this week the Government would be ruling out a 10 per cent increase to pay for nurses and midwives.
It came after 2500 members of the Australian Nursing Federation met on Wednesday to vote for improved wages and staff conditions.
Mark Duncan-Smith, the AMA WA’s president, said on Friday he would urge the Government to work alongside the ANF to reach a “mutually agreeable solution” for the benefit of the WA health system.
“We need to have better working conditions for the healthcare workers so that they can see this as a sustainable career and to help keep those healthcare professionals in the system,” Dr Duncan-Smith said.
ANF chief executive Mark Olson said that if the Government did not improve conditions, they would ban double-shifts from next week and start closing beds on wards.
But Ms Sanderson said on Thursday the McGowan Government’s current 3 per cent offer was final, with Mr McGowan adding it was already costing taxpayers about $3.3 billion.
“Ultimately the system is on its knees at the moment. Because not enough investment has actually been made in the system over the last five years,” Dr Duncan-Smith said.
“It’s time to change the orientation away from the cost-cutting and austerity to actually delivering safe and quality health care.”
A McGowan Government spokesperson said it would “continue to bargain in good faith” with the ANF.
“The McGowan Government has increased spending on health by more than 30 per cent since coming to office, and has invested $252 million in a package of 17 initiatives to improve emergency access at WA hospitals,” he said.
“The last two Budgets have seen a record $6.1 billion in additional funding for health and mental health.”
Meanwhile Dr Duncan-Smith is concerned the already-strained hospitals will face an increase in patients off the back of reduced mandatory COVID-19 isolation restrictions, saying the chief health officer had predicted an increase in case numbers.
“Just because the Government has changed COVID isolation rules does not mean that the COVID pandemic is over,” he said.
“If you get symptoms, test for COVID. If you’re positive, then isolate.”
He urged people to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, recommending the Bivalent vaccine to offer the best protection against Omicron and any other variants that may appear.