After packing a suitcase and moving to Carnarvon to holiday with some friends for two weeks, HSUWA Delegate Bianka fell in love with the local community. She has now lived and worked in the picturesque Gascoyne Shire for two years.
Bianka explained, “It’s a bit like a warm hug, the people here are fantastic.”
Bianka told us that Carnarvon has a tight-knit and generous community while recounting a recent rent inspection when her vacuum cleaner expired unexpectedly. Her quick call out on the community Facebook page attracted five different people offering her an array of vacuum cleaners to borrow.
Initially working as the A&E Clerk at Carnarvon Hospital, Bianka and the admin team members are the ultimate versatile administration employees, with several now working across the hospital in a variety of administration roles.
“I’ve been working as a Ward Clerk for the past two months, but next week I’ll be in Medical Imaging, then off to Medical Records and then back on the ward… It can be challenging but you just have to make it work.”
The biggest problem Bianka and her colleagues face is a transient workforce. Short fixed-term and casual contracts mean people may look for secure employment elsewhere so they can guarantee their income. It also makes it difficult for Bianka and her colleagues to build solid relationships amongst their peers.
“Something has to change, we need a solid work force of permanent staff, there are positions here that need filling. We know that because we are filling them.”
“In my opinion it doesn’t work if “everyone” is a casual or on short term contracts, there’s no continuity both for yourself and the consumers who use our services. It really affects your mental health and general well being. Stressing out about paying bills and being used to back fill so many positions over many days, I’ve (all of us who rotate through positions have) worked quite a few 12 or 13 day fortnights, is both physically and mentally exhausting.”
In addition, hospital clerical staff like Bianka liaise with Allied Health, Doctors, Nurses, RFDS and other hospitals to organise ongoing patient care including following up results and patient transfers. Where some services are not always available in a regional hospital (currently birthing is not being undertaken at Canarvon Hospital), admin staff like Bianka must book flights and accommodation for patients to access services in other regions or Perth.
It sounds like an extreme sport, but through their efforts, clerical staff like Bianka and her team are making a positive difference in their workplace and local community.
Bianka said staff go the extra mile to make sure patients and their families are well looked after while in their workplace. Something as simple as a smile on their arrival is important.
“We (Admin) don’t just answer the phone and do some typing; we’re the first person the patient sees… we have to put the patient at ease, we have to be able to build rapport and use our contingency management skills, and sometimes conflict resolution skills, because you’re it and things can change at the drop of a hat.”
“We’re also the last person the patient sees when they leave, we like to make it a good experience for them. It’s more than just part of your job or part of being a decent human, it really can make a difference to people. We might be the only person who has smiled or spoken to them that day.” “Working in such a small community, people aren’t just patients in many circumstances, often times these are our friends and we still need to maintain professionalism even when our hearts are aching. It can be really hard.”
“On the flip side it’s nice to watch kids (we see at ongoing appointments) grow and turn into adults and the remarkable recovery people make after being on the ward or in ED. It really does warm your heart.”
As a committed Union Delegate, Bianka encourages others to step up for themselves and their workmates, particularly those working regionally, to ensure greater representation across the Membership to advocate for job security, better working conditions and fair wages.
If you’d like to learn more about Union Membership, or becoming a Delegate, contact us!