With nurses adamant on work bans on elective surgery the threat of an industrial dispute looms over surgery at two Tasmanian hospitals.
A unanimous vote has been passed by nurses at the Launceston General Hospital to implement work bans from today, cancelling elective surgery if the levels of staffing are deemed unsafe.
Similar work bans are in force at Burnie's North West Regional Hospital following a vote by nurses earlier this week following which two operations were cancelled at the hospital yesterday and three are expected to be scrapped today.
At Launceston hospital the bans expected to come into effect only by next week.
The nurses have called on the Tasmanian Government to release more funding to overcome the acute nursing shortage, that they claim exists.
Australian Nurses Federation branch secretary Neroli Ellis said staff shortages were forcing nurses to work overtime and they were "sick to death" of waiting for the Government to act.
Ms Ellis said, "Since the minister's actually brought in the policy of no extra funding we're finding that's happening more and more across all the wards and areas that nurses are working double shifts every day. That means 17 hours straight, which really is not sustainable for the health system and ... demands from the public."
According to Ms Ellis an extra 53 government-funded nursing positions were needed in Tasmania's north and north-west and that in spite of the demand, nurses seeking work were being knocked back.
She said, "What the nurses are asking for is to staff to accepted national standards which should be safe staffing ... it's been a long time since they've worked to those levels and they have been working overtime and trying to do two roles for a long period of time but they've have enough.
"The nurses are now saying we'll only accept elective (surgery) when we have got the safe staffing levels."