‘Exhausted’ WA nurses walk off the job

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Angry nurses and midwives defied the Western Australian government and rallied by the thousands in a statewide strike.

Staff walked off the job at Perth and WA area hospitals on Friday as part of an escalation in their bid for better pay and conditions.

The Australian Nurses Federation has ignored a directive from the WA Industrial Relations Board to call off the strike, which the McGowan government says will pose an “unprecedented” threat to patient safety.

About 3,000 health workers gathered on the steps of parliament, making themselves heard with horns, bells and inflatable clappers.

The crowd then marched to the nearby Dumas House where Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson’s office is located.

The building was in semi-lockdown on Friday with all but one entrance closed.

Hundreds of category two and three elective surgeries have been postponed during the strike which is due to last until 9pm.

Thousands of outpatient appointments have been postponed or moved to telehealth, with oncology and dialysis patients among those affected.

Nurses and midwives were offered a 3% annual salary increase, a one-off $3,000 bonus and the introduction of nurse-patient ratios.

The union last week encouraged members to accept the pay deal before backtracking on its position.

He now wants a five per cent raise which he says is needed to combat rising cost-of-living pressures.

Speakers said nurses at the rally were exhausted, frequently working double shifts and dealing with backlash from families about their loved ones awaiting care.

Registered nurse Tom, who did not want his surname used, said he was shocked by the conditions at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

He said he seriously questioned giving up nursing, especially with a local university offering a 12-month bridging course into a better paid role as a paramedic.

“The ward I’m on takes care of the whole state. You release someone, then you have someone who needs full nursing assistance,” he told AAP. .

“You go as fast as you physically can but you can’t do everything.

“You have to hand over to the evening staff (things) that should have been done in the morning, essential things like dressings, medicine.

“We don’t want to strike but we have no choice.”

Union Secretary of State Janet Reah called Prime Minister and Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston “cowards” for not addressing the crowd.

She thanked the nurses who remained at work and promised that the union would help cover the penalties incurred by the participants in the strike.

Ms Sanderson earlier issued a statement urging the nurses union to return to the bargaining table.

“As a former union official, I support the right of workers to take industrial action, however, I cannot tolerate illegal activity or activity that endangers patient safety,” she said. .

Only about 4,800 union members took part in the vote to reject the latest pay offer, representing less than a quarter of the state’s nursing and midwifery workforce.

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