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Staff cuts and swine flu prompt global nurse protests

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Staff cuts and swine flu have been the focus for organised protests by nurses around the world this month.

More than 100 nurses attended a rally in San Francisco protesting at the lack of safety preparation for the flu pandemic in California’s hospitals.

The event, organised by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, followed the death from swine flu of a 51-year-old nurse who worked at a Sacramento hospital.

The two organisations claim hospitals in California are not adequately prepared to protect their nurses from infection. A survey of their members has uncovered ‘systemic problems with safety gear for nurses and infection control procedures for patients’, they said.

Nurses in the north coast area of the state of New South Wales in Australia also held a series of rallies in protest against a decision to amalgamate senior nurse management positions. Under management proposals 15 hospitals could lose their directors of nursing.

Closer to home, health service bosses in Ireland agreed to postpone planned nurse job cuts until a patient risk assessment has been carried out. Ireland’s Health Service Executive agreed to defer the termination of 21 fixed-term and temporary nursing contracts in three hospitals following talks with unions.

The deferral has been made to allow time for detailed assessments of the potential clinical risks that may result from the cuts.

Lorraine Monaghan, industrial relations officer at the Irish Nurses Organisation, said: ‘We have no doubt, that such risk assessments, when carried out in an open and transparent manner, will uncover dangerously low staffing levels in all three hospitals’.

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