Date published: February 1, 2012
With predictions of cyclones forming in north Queensland in the coming weeks it's no wonder some of our Tully members are feeling decidedly nervous.
Twelve months after Cyclone Yasi ripped through their town, the Tully Nurses Quarters is still in ruins leaving displaced nurses to face this year's cyclone season while living in demountable workers' dongas.
QNU Member Organiser for Cairns Kaylene Turnbull said the nursing quarters' roof has been replaced but the inside is still cordoned off because it is too dangerous to enter.
"So we have our members living in temporary accommodationand we don't even know the cyclone rating of those buildings- or they are forced to live out of town or pay high rents because other accommodation is in short demand," she says.
The nurses' quarters could accommodate as many as 18 nursing, medical and allied health staff and was well used for short and long-term stays and by those who needed a bed when working late shifts or early mornings.
DON facility manager Suzette Harney said the delay in fixing the building was taking a toll.
"We have trouble recruiting people to regional areas anyway and this just compounds the problem," she says.
"I've had two nurses ready to come out here who have changed their minds because of the accommodation situation. . . and I've been trying to recruit a Senior Medical Officer but it's proving difficult without an initial residence."
Ms Turnbull said the reconstruction delay was not good for the hospital or the community
"They've had to rely on a succession of relief staff and whilst they are certainly very good there is a continuity of care issue, she said.
The lack of progress on rebuilding is also affecting staff morale.
"They do feel forgotten," Ms Turnbull said.
The state government pledged $3 million directly towards rebuilding the quarters in its 2011-12 budget and the job was listed as one of QBuild's top priorities.
But the building has remained untouched for nearly a year.
Cairns and Hinterland Health Service District CEO Julie Hartley- Jones says Queensland Health "remains committed to renovating the nurse's quarters" and said the planning process and design for the restoration was now complete.
Ms Hartley- Jones did not explain the reason the project was taking so long but said construction was expected to begin this month.