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"Our faces are bleeding and bruised, we can barely breathe ... we're starting to lose it"

What do we want? Nurses and midwives protest on Summer Street in Orange. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

But to dig in their heels, was a thing they'd been taught

So they painted a sign, and it said 'Blow your horn if you support'

Oh sisters of mercy, why can't they see

That a daughter of charity, you'll never be

It's a wicked old game that the government plays

When they treat you like dogs, then you must have your day

Sisters of Mercy (Michael Thomas/1988)

Weddings, Parties, Anything

By Peter Holmes

A cacophony of car horns supported dozens of nurses and midwives from Orange as they took to the streets on Tuesday, waving placards and chanting.

Nurses and midwives walked off the job on Tuesday morning in protest at what they say is an ongoing lack of support from the government over a number of issues including staff-to-patient ratios, remuneration, overtime and double shifts, and staff shortages leading to new nurses not getting proper on the job training.

Grace Langlands speaks with the media at Robertson Park. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

As the nurses and midwives prepared to set off on their protest walk up Summer Street, The Orange News Examiner spoke with Grace Langlands from the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association in Orange.

It takes a fair bit to push nurses and midwives to a point where they feel they have no option but to walk off the job.

It's been a long time since we've been on strike. We were already very strained, then Covid hit us and it's made us realise that things aren't well.

We aren't able to care for people as we should. We're making do, and that's not good enough anymore.

We need to be able to provide all the care, not just the bare minimum.

There would be a laundry list of ways in which Covid has made things more difficult for your members, including who can come and go from hospitals, wearing the PPE gear, the stress of putting yourself at risk of catching the virus. Unlike a lot of us, you couldn't work from home.

Covid in itself is a pandemic - it was going to cause havoc no matter what happened.

Surprisingly, it came in the Year of the Nurse.

In 2020 we were meant to be celebrated, but instead we worked ourselves into the ground: overtime shifts, double shifts, mornings into afternoons, afternoons into nights, come back after minimal sleep.

And we had staff getting Covid as well.

On top of that we had our patients, and this illness we knew little about.

We were trying our best.

Our faces are bleeding, our faces are bruised, we can barely breathe, we're struggling to get to a break.

We've tried our best and we're starting to lose it, we're starting to break.

The burn out is real. I'm seeing multiple people on my ward nearly in tears every day because we cannot cope, and it is not good enough.

Grace Langlands is proud to stand up for her colleagues. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

If you had the ear of the premier Dominic Perrottet right now, what would you ask him for? Is there anything that could be done in the next few weeks or months to help, or is it beyond that now?

There is no Band-Aid fix now.

We need staff, we need new graduate positions, we need people studying who feel supported, and we need the experienced nurses to be able to support them on the floor and give the education needed.

We need a pay rise. It needs to be acknowledged that we have worked our arses off over the last 24 months, and longer.

Do you feel your goodwill has been exploited by the government?


We have family to go home to. We forget that, because we're so worried about our patients.

It's getting to the point that if we left, there is no-one to replace us anymore.

We're taking care of multitudes of patients. We need (nurse to patient) ratios as well. This crap of because we're rural means we don't get the same ratio as metro - we've got the same amount of sickness.

We also need babies to be counted in ratios.

Becoming a nursing union rep is something you don't take on lightly - it's a lot of work, a lot of responsibility, and you've no doubt got people coming at you all the time with things that need urgent attention. Why take this on?

I have a lot of family members who are historically in the union.

My dad was a very strong union man. I've got a lot of adopted aunties and uncles that have been very strong union, and it just made sense to me.

Someone needs to be able to stand up and be the voice of the members when they need it.


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