NSW nursing and midwifery delegates have been urged to take belief from the success of Victoria and Queensland in legislating public hospital nurse-to-patient ratios as the union’s campaign to make this a reality pushes ahead.
Addressing delegates at the NSWNMA’s 74th Annual Conference in Sydney last Thursday, President O’Bray Smith implored nurses and midwives to “keep believing and keep fighting”.
“One day we will look back on these campaigns knowing that they helped us win ratios,” Ms Smith said.
“One day, we will work in a system that provides our patients with enough staff to adequately care for them. We must keep our members focused on what Queensland and Victoria have achieved. It is possible and that is a powerful message. The message that it is a reality. That other nurses and midwives in Australia have those ratios.”
The NSW government has pledged to introduce 5,000 more nurses and midwives over the next four years but despite welcoming the commitment, the NSWMA remains adamant only mandated nurse-to-patient ratios can meet demand and guarantee safe patient care.
NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Homes, told delegates the association would be watching closely to make sure the state government delivers on its budget commitments and that a recent survey of public health members confirmed an overwhelming resolve to continue the ratios campaign.
“Our private hospital members are no different and our aged care members continue to be desperate for real staffing solutions. We must therefore explore different approaches. We must hold management to account. We must have the courage to close beds and take action. We must engage our local communities for support and we must seek out members of Parliament and highlight our issues repeatedly until we see the change necessary.” Mr Holmes said.
Mr Holmes also acknowledged the efforts of the ANMF-led national campaign for mandated aged care ratios and the state’s dedicated aged care nurses and carers.
“We know it’s incredibly challenging to do your very best when what you hear about your chosen nursing speciality is so distressing. The band-aid has been ripped off and exposed gaping wounds that must be cleansed in order to be healed. Your call for ratios in aged care is a major focus of the Royal Commission. All of us here are cognisant of the need for transparency in safe staffing and aged care. We will not rest until the sector is properly reformed.”
NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda thanked members for their ongoing commitment to the campaign for ratios in the state’s public hospitals and highlighted achievements such as five public hospitals being saved from privatisation.
She said standing together and building workplace power was the only way to achieve real change.
“We are part of the largest union. We must harness the capacity that being the largest union affords us. The public trusts us. We are the majority of workers in any health service. We need to stand up and fight back.”
Speaking to delegates, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the state’s health system was always under pressure and faced many challenges, including the state’s growing population and subsequent need for more staff.
Investing in preventative healthcare so chronic health issues are not overburdening hospitals is one area that should be looked at, he said.
Pressed on the urgent need for shift by shift ratios, Mr Hazzard reiterated the Liberal-Nationals Coalition’s pledge of 5,000 extra nurses and midwives and said he disagreed with the union’s calls.