No end in sight for Torres Strait island nurses dispute

A meeting between the Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) and Queensland Health has failed to deter nurses in the Torres Strait from withdrawing their labour.

At a hearing at the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QRIC) in Brisbane no agreement was reached; a new meeting has been arranged for this Wednesday on Thursday Island in a last ditch attempt to resolve the issue.

The alleged rape of a nurse last month on Mabuiag Island last month has brought on-going concerns over safety and working conditions in the Torres Straits to a head.

Nurses working in the region voted last Thursday to walk off the job over fears for their safety and nurses' representatives have accused Queensland Health of ignoring complaints and failing to address safety issues at clinics and staff accommodation.

Fears that the nurses dispute in the Torres Strait could soon spread to teachers has been denied by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh.

However Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) is threatening similar action over security concerns in the region.

The QTU is meeting with teachers in the Cape York communities of Kowanyama, Pormpuraaw, Aurukun and Weipa tomorrow to consider possible industrial action.

QTU president secretary Steve Ryan says the situation in the north is untenable at the moment and teachers are also reporting concern about security issues and the maintenance of teacher accommodation.

The QTU says the matter is very serious matter and teachers are treating it very seriously; the QTU is demanding the government spend $50 million on security and safety of teachers in the Torres Strait.

Ms Bligh says she is unaware that teachers are contemplating industrial action over safety concerns, and says it is not related to the nurses' dispute and is not in the same category.

Ms Bligh says she believes the QIRC will be able to settle the nurses dispute soon and their safety concerns would be addressed.

According to Health Minister Stephen Robertson, contingency plans are in place for medical services in Torres Strait and on all islands indigenous health workers with advanced skills had been brought in to provide services.

Mr Robertson says they will be supported by paramedics and medical officers flown out from Thursday Island by means of enhanced transport arrangements.

Mr Robertson says patients would be evacuated by air if health workers were unable to cope with a medical emergency.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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