DELIVERED IN THE FEDERATION CHAMBER
Today I raise some of the shocking conditions facing staff and patients at the only public hospital in the Greater Blacktown area, Blacktown Hospital. Like many locals, I was born in Blacktown Hospital. It's central to the safety and liveability of our community. That's why, like so many other local residents, I was shocked by recent revelations aired in the media relating to the treatment and resourcing of staff, particularly within the obstetrics ward, and the heartbreaking accounts of the deaths of babies at the hospital. The sheer grief of their parents and families who are failed is unbearable to read. A decision was recently made by the Blacktown branch of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association to take industrial action, stopping work on Thursday 19 November. It was a decision that was not taken lightly. They were ordered back to work the next morning, but it sent a very powerful message that the medical staff and allied health professionals who keep our hospitals running have been taken for granted for far too long.
I recently met with some of the nurses and midwives from the hospital. They are passionate people who love what they do, but they are angry, and rightfully so as they are continually left understaffed in one of the fastest growing areas in all of Greater Sydney. They recounted stories of missing out on time with their families because they needed to do overtime to plug gaps in the roster and they didn't want to let their colleagues down and leave them alone. They described situations in which non-specialist nurses and midwives were ordered to work in some of the most high-pressure environments, including for premature and complicated births, despite not having the formal training to do so. Horrifyingly, they told me it was common to be perpetually dehydrated, to not drink anything in the lead-up to a shift or during a shift, to avoid having to take a bathroom break when they are so cripplingly understaffed. The fasting practices often continue into their shifts. We expect our healthcare professionals to observe the highest level of medical integrity, to be ready to respond to anything and everything, and yet this government isn't even affording them the dignity to be able to eat and drink throughout their shifts due to current staffing measures. It is an absolute disgrace.
I recently wrote to the New South Wales Minister for Health, seeking an urgent briefing on the steps being taken by the New South Wales government to address these very disturbing issues. I'm yet to receive a response. While I welcome the Western Sydney Local Health District's commitment to hiring six to 10 obstetricians to address staffing shortfalls, I remain concerned that this will not be enough to address the demand caused by our growing population. I will continue to monitor this issue closely and advocate strongly for the staff and patients of Blacktown Hospital. This should not be happening. In a developed and prosperous nation like ours, this sort of maladministration is simply not on.