Understaffing is a problem that can not only create unhealthy working conditions for staff, but can also have a negative impact on patient outcomes.  Heavier workloads, less supervision, communication problems and not surprisingly, stress, can arise when there is is insufficient staffing.This can create an environment where mistakes are more likely to occur and patient safety can be put at risk.

Members from St Vincent’s Hospital, aware of these possible consequences, contacted their Manager when a colleague of theirs went on maternity leave in the Nuclear Medicine Department and requested the vacancy that arose from this be filled.  When members’ requests to management to replace the position were not acted upon, members contacted their VHPA Organiser, Emma Brelsford.

The VHPA contacted Management at St Vincent’s about their obligation under the Public Sector Agreement, to make every endeavour to fill a position of prolonged leave within 8 weeks of it becoming vacant. St Vincent’s argued that backfilling was not required due to reduced workload in the department, something VHPA members strongly disputed. With the vacant position still not filled, the  VHPA referred the matter to the FairWork Commission. After a conference at the Commission, and exchanges of correspondence,  St Vincent’s agreed to advertise a position to help fill the vacancy.

“This is a great outcome for the staff and patients at St Vincent’s with the position now advertised and members in the Nuclear Medicine Department looking forward to increased staffing” said Organiser Emma Brelsford.