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Government ‘poaching’ eggs on nursing sector

PRIVATE hospital chiefs have criticised a WA Government letter they say is aimed at “poaching” their nurses.

During the past two weeks Health Minister Bob Kucera has sent letters to WA’s 250,000 registered nurses, aimed at attracting them to the public system.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry health, safety and workers’ compensation director Anne Bellamy said several private hospitals the chamber represented were concerned by the letter.

“This is a problem for private hospitals. The Government is mainly targeting nurses working in private hospitals,” she said.

“In one way the private sector takes a lot of pressure off the public sector. It provides about 35 per cent of the acute care beds and most of the aged care beds.

“The Government bought a number of beds in aged care facilities to help take the pressure off public hospitals.”

St John of God Healthcare Subiaco CEO Neale Fong said he was “miffed” by the Government’s approach.

“We should be talking about nurses for the whole system and not just the public sector,” he said.

Australian Nursing Federation WA secretary Mark Olson said he was aware that the Kucera letter had caused “ructions” within the private sector.

“The idea was good – it was an idea – but it was poorly executed. He should have been targeting the 8,000 nurses who have left the system, not all nurses,” he said.

“There are a number of nurses in the private sector who are not happy with the letter and a number of nurses in the public sector who are not happy with the letter.”

Mr Kucera said the 6,000 or so nurses on the register who had left the profession were the primary targets of the campaign.

“We also wanted to communicate with all nurses on the register to inform them of the initiatives the Government has undertaken in response to what the nurses have told us the problems were,” he said.

“Having more nurses in the system is good for everyone – it means less pressure on nurses already working in the system and will send a clear signal to people considering a return to the profession that workload and pay issues are being addressed.”

Ms Bellamy said the Government’s letter only served to highlight the financial solutions it was offering but did little to address the profession’s negative image.

“While the negative perception of the profession remains, it will be very hard to attract new people to it,” she said.

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