Nurses feel compo pain

NEPEAN HOSPITAL nurses are threatening to campaign against Penrith state MP Stuart Ayres over proposed changes to workers' compensation.

The nurses considered taking industrial action at a meeting yesterday, after the Star's publication deadline. (See the website: penrithstar.com.au for an update.)

Unions NSW is co-ordinating a broader campaign against the changes.

Its secretary, Mark Lennon, visited Penrith and offered Nepean Hospital nurses his support last Monday.

At present, NSW nurses can receive a maximum of 26 weeks' full pay while on sick leave, before their rate falls to their industry's minimum standard.

However, the state government's proposed changes would cut this full pay limit to 13 weeks.

Nepean Hospital's Nurses' Association secretary Peter Mason said this would hurt nurses financially and possibly impair their health as well.

"A registered nurse would go from $1200 a week to $460 a week," Mr Mason said. "We fear that a 13-week limit would also force some nurses back to work because of their financial situation."

He said between six and 10 nurses at Nepean Hospital could be expected to sustain workplace injuries, serious enough to keep them on sick leave for more than 13 weeks.

He said back injuries were among the most common problems in the profession.

"We will be calling on Stuart Ayres to vote against this legislation in Parliament," Mr Mason said.

"If this legislation gets through we will campaign hard and fast on the issue, against Stuart, up to the next election."

Mr Ayres did not comment on Mr Mason's call, but said the government was committed to working with employers and employee representatives to implement necessary changes.

He said the NSW workers' compensation scheme had a $4.1 billion deficit, which he blamed on the previous Labor government's "mismanagement".

"Unless the scheme is reformed it will become unviable and unable to help injured employees get back to work," Mr Ayres said.

"The blowout in WorkCover costs has placed 12,600 jobs across the state at risk.

"In order to turn the scheme around we must achieve better rehabilitation outcomes, better rates of return-to-work and better management."

Mr Mason said some Nepean Hospital nurses would join Unions NSW's protest in Sydney next Wednesday.

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