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Hospital closures leave nurses out in the cold

Photo: ANMF
More than 200 nurses will be impacted by Healthscope’s decision to close Geelong Private Hospital and Cotham Private Hospital, a move which has left staff shocked and dismayed. 

Registered nurse and midwife Gillian Wride has been working at Geelong Private Hospital for almost 20 years, and says the impending closure has left her feeling lost and confused.

“I’m devastated, sad, angry, shocked and disappointed,” Ms Wride says.

“I’m very emotional about it.

“You sign a piece of paper with a date to leave by.  You hand in your ID badge, swipe card, and just quietly walk out the door after nearly 20 years.”

Having been a nurse for more than 37 years, Ms Wride says she’s unsure what the future will now hold.

“As I am of a certain age, finding new employment will be difficult, especially as I am seeking to continue in my vocation, and not just looking for a job.
“I feel I have few good years left in me, but now in Geelong there are many nurses that are keenly looking for nursing positions.

“These positions are limited, most nurses have family in the Geelong area so they will have to look at relocating to Melbourne or other areas for work.

“Logistically this is difficult and emotionally it is heartbreaking.”

To make matters worse, staff have been left largely in the dark with regards to timing and process in relation to the closure.

“I knew that the hospital could not be financially viable with very poor occupancy rates that we had been experiencing for some time, so I was expecting something to give but still shocked that the solution was closure.

“Despite the obvious planning which would have been many months in development, notice of the closure was only communicated to the employees at five minutes to midnight.

“Unfortunately this left staff in a difficult situation, especially with the end of the financial year looming.

“So, planning could have been so much better in order to benefit the loyal staff, but I guess we all understand the financial imperatives.”

Ms Wride says the way the matter has been handled may force her into an early retirement.

“I am still shocked that I am unemployed after 37 years.

“Yet I am hopeful that my experience will stand me in good stead.

“I am of a certain age that makes it challenging to be re-employed. Experience does not seem to amount to much.

“Once you are not working at the bedside directly giving patient care as a nurse, there are much less employment possibilities.”

A devastating reality for Ms Wride who loves being a nurse and working with nurses, particularly in the Geelong area.

“Our jobs have such an impact on people’s lives, from nursing critically ill patients right through to caring for our palliative patients. Nurses are the patients advocates making sure that their needs are met with respect and dignity.

“The Geelong area and Bellarine peninsula provides a great family environment with an eclectic mixture of local culture and lifestyle opportunities which are second to none.”

Ms Wride says she believes the closure is the result of a broader issue, and a number of associated problems. She says Health Policy makers should be doctors and nurses, rather than bureaucrats, as a starting point, followed by a reexamination and redesign of the structure of health policy and its financial base.

“The main stakeholders, the consumers, need to be consulted,” says Ms Wride.  She also says the following issues need to be addressed:
  • Private Health Insurance, which is too expensive for most people with its restricted cover;
  • MBS, which is unrealistic when the value of the service is grossly underestimated. “Indexing of the MBS is also unrelated to changes in the CPI and technology advances,” says Ms Wride.  MBS rebates thus lag behind the real cost of providing services.”
  • Public hospitals holding onto the private patients, as they can have greater remuneration by charging these patients health funds. “These private patients block access to public beds and the waiting list for surgery for public patients continues to increase,” she says.
“These are but but a few areas that need addressing,” says Ms Wride.

“Overall we appear to have lost focus on best outcomes for patients, the government and health providers are always looking for a cheaper alternative for delivering Healthcare at the cost of patient safety.
“If we do not make some significant changes I feel our health system will become unaffordable and unsafe.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.