Nurses and midwives across the state are protesting at what they claim is inaction by the Marshall Government regarding their enterprise bargaining agreement.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) said the bargaining claims have three major themes: safe staffing and skills mix to meet the needs of patients now and in the future; ensuring the availability of enough nurses and midwives in the future; and attraction and retention of nurses and midwives through better incentives and improved safety and working conditions.
Industrial Relations Minister Rob Lucas said it was unreasonable the union has taken industrial action when the agreement was for the government to respond to their claims by tomorrow evening.
"We will comply with that particular understanding and requirements," Mr Lucas said.
Thousands of staff from more than 120 metropolitan and regional public health care sites and services are participating in varying degrees of industrial action this week.
Nursing and midwifery staff at larger public health care sites and services are taking stop-work action during double-staffed handover periods to ensure continuity of care to patients during one-hour protests.
Staff at smaller sites, particularly those in regional areas, wore campaign apparel to champion the cause from within hospitals and health services.
ANMF (SA Branch) chief executive/secretary Elizabeth Dabars said nurses and midwives across the state were frustrated at having to take such drastic action to shine a spotlight on patient and staff safety.
"Putting patient care first is what nurses and midwives do for a living, but they would much prefer to be doing that from inside hospitals and health facilities," she said.
"It is a sad indictment on any government when its nurses and midwives decide there is no other option than to leave their place of care to highlight the patient safety implications of what is being proposed."
Ms Dabars said regional nurses and midwives were particularly concerned about the effects of the government's proposed staffing models and questioned its commitment to attract and retain staff in rural and remote areas.
"The State Government is proposing models that would permit staffing levels to fall below the current agreed minimum or cap staffing to prevent any increases even if patient conditions deteriorate.
"This would place staff and patients at further risk from the effects of stress, unmanageable workloads and burnout.
"Nurses and midwives are taking this action now in the hope the State Government will reconsider its position on critical measures that will impact the quality of healthcare in South Australia."
Mr Lucas said the union needed to be prepared to compromise in the enterprise agreement, and taxpayers could not afford to pay for increase claims and a 3.5 per cent salary increase.
"The union needs to be prepared to sit down with the government, negotiate, say 'OK, how can we assist with taxpayers by saving money?'"
The enterprise agreement for public sector nurses and midwives expired last month.
Naracoorte Health Service was one of the many rural and regional places taking action today.