A BUSY day for Matthew Cartan when he first started working at the Tamworth hospital in 2006 is now just a regular day on the job, as the health system grapples with staff shortages and extreme workloads.
He's one of hundreds of nurses and midwives across the state who stopped work on Tuesday to discuss the failures of the state budget.
Mr Cartan, a medical and Nioka ward nurse and Tamworth branch president of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA), said most nights staff were going without breaks.
"We're always short staffed, there's not enough nurses, the managers are trying their best to get staff but they've been trying for months and months," he said.
Mr Cartan said one nurse on average would often be caring for up to a dozen patients, or working overtime to keep the hospital running.
"With what's been happening people have walked away, they don't want to deal with the sickness or they get burnt out," he said.
"It's not all about the money, it's about patient care and staff safety, but the government thinks they can just buy people off," he said.
At a closed meeting on Tuesday, members of the NSWNMA resolved to continue to push for shift by shift ratios and a fair pay rise - a decision which wouldn't rule out further industrial action.
NSWNMA Tamworth branch secretary Jill Telfer said the vote reflected the seriousness of the situation that hospital staff were facing.
"Tamworth is in dire straights when it comes to midwives, Tamworth is in dire straights when it comes to emergency department," she said.
"We're in trouble, we're in real trouble and I think as we head further into winter it's only going to be highlighted further."
At hospitals like Tamworth, the NSWNMA are calling for nurse to patient ratios of one to three in the emergency department, one to four on morning and evening shifts and one to six for night shifts.
However, this would be managed on a shift to shift basis to ensure adequate staffing and workloads.
"We've got to keep pushing so they look at what's actually happening inside the hospitals," Ms Telfer said.
"There's a disconnect between the government and the ministry, they're not seeing what's actually happening.
"And I find that incredible after we've had the rural health report and we've seen how bad it is in the regions."
While no decision was made about what future industrial action would look like, it is expected more strikes could occur in the lead up to the state election in March next year.
While healthcare workers across NSW have been offered a $3000 'thankyou' payment for their efforts during the pandemic and a three per cent wage cap, ratios and better workloads is what those on the ground are calling for.
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