After more than a decade of campaigning by the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA), minimum shift by shift nurse-to-patient ratios will be implemented in specific clinical areas across public hospitals.
The first phase of the landmark workforce reforms, achieved following extensive negotiations as part of the state government’s Safe Staffing Levels Taskforce, which includes the NSWNMA, will see ratios rolled out at Liverpool and Royal North Shore Hospital’s emergency departments (EDs). The changes will deliver a one-to-one nursing care ratio for generally occupied resuscitation beds on all shifts, and one nurse to three generally occupied ED treatment spaces and ED short-stay units.
Announcing the reforms today, the NSW Government said the safe staffing levels rollout would boost the number of nurses and midwives in NSW public hospital’s between now and 2027. Delivered in stages, the initial rollout will help inform expansion to future sites across other hospital departments, it added.
“This reform will mean more nurses providing frontline care to the people of NSW,” NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said.
“We listened to the nurses, midwives, patients and other stakeholders who have told us of the need for these changes and have acted to ensure we have a health system that delivers the best care possible for all of NSW, now and into the future.”
“This important reform will deliver improved experiences and outcomes of care for patients while backing essential frontline workers in all corners of the state. It will help retain our existing staff while also helping attract our future workforce.”
NSWNMA General Secretary Shaye Candish labelled the measures a major milestone in the union’s longstanding fight for staffing reforms.
“Several EDs will see a substantial boost to their staffing numbers as these reforms are phased in, which will improve workloads for our members and improve safe emergency care for patients,” Ms Candish said.
“This healthcare reform is momentous for our state. Our union has been campaigning for ratios in public hospitals for more than a decade, we are now seeing the beginning of their introduction, which will provide much-needed workload relief for our devoted nurses and midwives.”
Ms Candish said the state had lost far too many experienced nurses and midwives due to being the last state to commit to nurse-to-patient ratios, along with lower pay than interstate counterparts. While the reforms are a great first step, “there is more to do”, she said.
In this vein, NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Michael Whaites, said the first phase of ratios represented a foundation to build on.
“We will see a more transparent, accountable, and enforceable staffing system delivered in NSW public hospitals,” he said.
“We’re confident these reforms will finally help to end years of chronic shortages, fatigue and burnout in our nursing and midwifery workforce.
“These workforce reforms are a crucial step forward, but there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure the staffing enhancements are introduced in every hospital and every ward across the state.”