More problems: other states The Age Melbourne Nurses to close one quarter of beds Jane Holroyd October 16, 2007 - 4:00PM Advertisement Victoria's public sector nurses have voted to close one in four beds as their dispute with the state Government escalates. From 7am tomorrow, nurses will close one quarter of beds in the state's public hospitals, except the Royal Children's Hospital and the Peter MacCallum. Nurses have also voted to close one in four operating theatre sessions for an indefinite period until the state Government resolves the dispute. The next Australian Nurses Federation meeting is scheduled for October 25th. Earlier, more than 3000 public sector nurses risked thousands of dollars in fines to attend a stopwork meeting in their fight for better pay and nurse-patient ratios. The state branch of the ANF called the meeting to determine whether its members would accept the Brumby Government's offer of a 3.25 per cent per annum pay increase. The ANF is demanding a six per cent per annum pay increase over three years, saying Victoria's nurses are the lowest paid in the country. ANF Victorian branch secretary, Lisa Fitzpatrick, this afternoon thanked the hundreds of nurses who had travelled to Dallas Brooks Hall from country areas, including busloads of nurses from Mildura. "We might have to look at a bigger venue next time," Ms Fitzpatrick told the crowd, which filled every seat in the hall. More nurses, sporting red ANF T-shirts, packed the stage and lined walls. She also thanked the crowd for attending despite the threat of docked pay or fines. The Department of Human Services is believed to have circulated a bulletin warning nurses they faced individual fines of $6600 under federal workplace laws if they were paid for attending today's meeting. A party-like atmosphere preceded today's formal speeches and debate as thousands of nurses clapped and cheered along to Aretha Franklin's 'Respect' and Billy Bragg's 'Power in a Union'. The hall was a sea of red ANF placards reading "Victoria's nurses are not worth less". Ms Fitzpatrick told the crowd the Brumby Government had not come forward with a new pay offer and remained determined to scrap current mandatory nurse-patient ratios. "[Instead the Government had] wasted an opportunity to fix this dispute" and instead used threats to undermine the move for industrial action. She said Victorian nurses were working overtime without pay and in many cases risking their health by working dangerously long night shifts. The ANF will soon vote on whether to begin industrial action, likely to be in the form of bed closures. The result of the vote is expected about 3.30pm. Ms Fitzpatrick said the message to the state Government was clear: "No nurses. No beds. No patients." For general wards in public hospitals, the current mandatory ratio is four patients to one nurse. Ms Fitzpatrick said if the state Government did not meet the nurses' demands, further action might be needed. There is a real mess in the Health System in NSW, now Vic: I know there is a shortage in SA and Tassie and QLD and NT. So, far the only mess documented relate to QLD (clearing up); NSW (rising to greater heights) and now, the crack is showing in Vic. Still want to come?