Nurses Fear For Jobs

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Cuts to Queensland’s health sector have left graduates worried about their future.

ACTION: Townsville Nurse’s rally against job cuts last month
PHOTO: QNU Website

By Robert Blake

North Queensland nursing graduates may be forced to move interstate or overseas for employment, as Queensland Health cuts have narrowed their options.

The Townsville Hospital was one of 17 Queensland facilities hit by the government decision to axe more than 2700 full-time jobs.

The Townsville Hospital and Health Services board announced 45 nurses would lose their position, as well as 86 other staff, so the hospital could stay within its budget.

The Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) rallied for its members’ to job security after the cuts were announced last month.

QNU regional organiser Mary Louez said the union’s concerns had community support.

“We believe the job cuts will have serious impacts on service delivery,” she said.

Ms Louez said the future for graduating health professionals wasn’t bright now the public had seen “the bigger picture” of job cuts.

She said the government’s forecast loss of 14,000 jobs across the sector wasn’t giving young people the hope they needed.

“A number of these jobs are frontline and public sector jobs including paramedics, occupational therapists, social workers, physiotherapists, doctors and most certainly nursing students looking for jobs,” Ms Louez said.

“The universities are turning out excellent, well-prepared people ready for a future in the health industry.

“It’s too early to see, but we already fear graduate programs around the state will be severely contracted because of this decision by the Newman government.”

Ms Louez said the graduate program for nursing students was “extremely valuable” and helped students practice in a safe and supportive environment.

“It is a program the union has worked on for many years through negotiations, to be able to facilitate the development of students into professionals who can take on the required level of responsibility and accountability,” she said.

“With the slash of a pen the Newman government is going to put the few remaining student positions in the deep end.”

QNU Townsville region organiser Louise Middleton said graduates were now on yearly contracts instead of being employed full-time by the hospital.

“In the past they were employed forever but now the career and classification structure in nursing is certainly at risk,” she said.

A JCU nursing student, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was waiting with nervous anticipation to find out if he was accepted into a post-graduate position at The Townsville Hospital.

“I am keeping my options open at the moment,” he said.

“I have had an interview with Queensland Health for a post-graduate position but I am still very worried about getting a job once I finish university.

“I feel like I have wasted three years of uni – they said we were so short of nurses, and now they’ve cut 45 of them in Townsville.”

At the end of the year, he will be competing with 130 other graduates to find work.

The Townsville Hospital’s nurse education officer Marg Heslop said the number of graduate positions was “yet to be determined”.

A JCU nursing graduate working at the Townsville Hospital, who also asked to remain anonymous, said job security in the health sector no longer existed.

“I don’t think my job is completely safe, they are getting rid of people from management down to the basic registered nurses,” she said.

“My contract ends in March next year, so after that I am rather worried about what will happen.

“If my contract does not get renewed and I am left unemployed, at least I’ll have a year’s experience under my belt.”