Riverview Lodge at Wingham Community Hospital has now closed.
This was despite assurances from Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) to the Wingham Chronicle in November 2018 that it had no plans to close the unit, after it was reclassified from a T-BASIS unit (Transitional Behavioural Assessment and Intervention Service for people with severe dementia and mental health needs), to a general ward for the rehabilitation hospital.
HNELHD management met with Riverview Lodge staff on July 17 to inform them of the decision.
"We are currently considering options for the future use of the Riverview Lodge facility, including what other services and teams will be relocated to the campus," general manager, Hunter New England Mental Health Services, Leanne Johnson said.
We are currently considering options for the future use of the Riverview Lodge facility, including what other services and teams will be relocated to the campus.Leanne Johnson, Hunter New England Mental Health Services
"Following our discussions with staff, we have advised the relevant unions and have also written to them to confirm the details of the service changes and the affected staff. All affected staff will be offered new positions in the local area."
"I've heard that they were looking at relocating people to Gloucester," Michael Kearn, organiser Health Services Union said, adding that the Union was not consulted by HNELHD as is required under the relevant awards.
Staff at Riverview Lodge are employed under the Health Employees Conditions of Employment (State) Award 2018 or the Public Health System Nurses' and Midwives' (State) Award 2018.
Clause 35 of the first award states: "Any proposal to reorganise a department or service that will significantly affect employees covered by the union will be the subject of genuine consultation with the union.
There are award provisions around consultation when they're undertaking a review, a restructure, and that's exactly what's going on, and they have failed to do that.Michael Kern, Health Services Union
"We have not received any notification whatsoever from HNELHD nor have we received any communication from the Lower Mid North Coast Sector based out of Manning Hospital nor from the facility itself," Mr Kearn said on Thursday, July 25. "So we have absolutely no knowledge of this apart from a number of phone calls from our members.
"Subsequent to that I made contact with senior management at the HNELHD and they have basically talked around the issue.
"There are award provisions around consultation when they're undertaking a review, a restructure, and that's exactly what's going on, and they have failed to do that," Mr Kearn said.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA), the union that represents the nurses at Riverview Lodge, also has a similar clause regarding discussions with introduction of change.
We are extremely disappointed with HNELHD for failing to consult nursing staff before shutting down Riverview Lodge at Wingham.Judith Kiejda, NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association
"We are extremely disappointed with HNELHD for failing to consult nursing staff before shutting down Riverview Lodge at Wingham," Judith Kiejda, acting general secretary NSWNMA said.
The Association was also unaware of HNELHD's decision until they were contacted by Riverview Lodge staff members.
"Last week we approached the LHD's Mental Health Service directly to request an urgent explanation. It's simply reprehensible behaviour by the LHD to treat its own loyal employees in this way," Ms Kiejda said.
"Instead of being thoroughly consulted and supported regarding future options, up to 30 nurses were left with rumours and uncertainty. Not to mention their concern for the long-term patients who have since been redirected to other services outside of the local area."
Many of these staff have worked with the T-basis Unit for many years, and we thank all of our staff for their ongoing dedication and commitment to the service and community.Leanne Johnson, HNELHD
"There's all these questions that we have not had the opportunity to ask the employer before it's made this decision," Mr Kearn said.
"We have raised these concerns, not only about Wingham but across the entire HNELHD, where management continually ignore genuine consultative processes around redevelopments and restructures affecting health workers. And we condemn them for it. There is a real potential that we are going to be escalating this."
The NSWNMA is also considering its industrial options in regard to Riverview Lodge.