THE ongoing nurses' dispute could lead to problems for understaffed country hospitals.
That is according to Rural Doctors Association of Victoria president Mike Moynihan.
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"If nurses get what they are pushing for (higher nurse-to-patient rations and higher pay), it could be bad news for country hospitals because it might draw more people back to the bigger hospitals," he said.
Dr Moynihan said the nurses' actions could have lasting impacts that could make working in better-resourced city hospitals even more attractive for country nurses.
He urged striking nurses to be circumspect about what they were trying to achieve.
Last week, a Federal Court judge ordered nurses to cease the rolling four-hour stoppages that have hit Victorian hospitals.
Dr Moynihan said there was already a labour crisis in country areas. Any pay rises could encourage more country nurses to the city and make it harder for country hospitals to pay higher rates.
"The shortage of nurses is more of an issue in the country than nurse-to-patient ratios," he said.
"I think the current situation with stopwork action needs to be resolved. It should go to arbitration."
Dr Moynihan said while the debate was complex, nurses should consider if the state had the capacity at the moment to pay for higher wages
The nurses' industrial action has affected staffing only at some larger regional hospitals, such as Ballarat, Bendigo and Traralgon.
The Australian Nurses Federation state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said Dr Moynihan was wrong.
"We're pushing for fully-funded improvements in ratios in regional areas, we would not be so stupid not to," she said.
Country nurse-patient ratios were"much worse" than metropolitan hospital, she said.