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The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) has called on the state’s political leaders to take urgent action to address the state’s chronically under-resourced health system.

In a pre-election health policy statement sent to all major political parties this week, the ANMF argues strong leadership is required to address significant issues plaguing the public health system.

“At the moment we can’t see a policy that will put in place systems and resourcing that would actually support a positive health system,” said ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adjunct Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars.

“Instead, all we can see is a health system that continually fails and wildly lurches from crisis to crisis with no plan to get itself out of it.”

As an example, the ANMF (SA Branch) says the closure of the Mental Health Hospital in the Home (MHIH) program just last week has increased pressure on emergency departments, with scores of mental health patients waiting more than 24 hours for a bed.

“Ensuring a strong and sustainable workforce is critical in light of the significant workforce changes anticipated in the very near future with thousands of nurses and midwives expected to leave their professions either through retirement or burnout,” Ms Dabars warned.

“Never before have we seen such alarming levels of ramping and overcrowding, to the point where our health system is failing even our frail aged and our children.”

Ms Dabars says South Australians deserve a state government that is willing to prioritise the health of the community and that it can be achieved only through significant investment.

“We have seen leaders in other states such as Western Australia make a serious financial commitment to providing the best health care services possible to their residents. We need to see that same level of action here.

“All our public hospitals are continually run far beyond their designated capacity, sometimes more than double their emergency capacity, resulting in delayed and missed care.”

Ms Dabars said the most frightening part of the current situation was the fact the state does not currently have an active COVID-19 case out in the community.

“It doesn’t bear to think about if we were to have a COVID-19 outbreak here, how would people receive the care they needed?”

The union’s evidence-based solutions to fix the health system include:

  • Resourcing and providing appropriate publicly employed staffing levels that ensure a quality public health system that meets the needs of the community
  • Public hospitals to run at 90% capacity through the provision of additional acute and subacute beds to enable better flow from the emergency department, with the ability to flex up
  • Implementing measures that improve the flow of patients through hospital care such as nurse-led discharge
  • Support specialised mental health care funding which is commensurate with the requirements of individuals, groups and communities
  • Measures that will increase the availability of nurses and midwives to meet the communities’ needs, including the development of appropriate graduate support; increasing the number of grad placements in rural hospitals; the casual employment of nurses, midwives and AINs to only be used for temporary employment situations or in exceptional circumstances; and establishing a workforce planning committee together with the ANMF (SA Branch) to identify and monitor skills shortages and implement support
  • No further privatisation or outsourcing of public health services
  • Protecting nurses and midwives from workplace injury causes by workplace bullying and harassment; fatigue and burnout; and violence and challenging behaviours.

The ANMF (SA Branch) will now await responses to the issues from all major political parties and communicate them with members in the lead-up to next year’s state election in March.

In the meantime, the union is urging the community to join its Action For Health ( campaign to pressure current and aspiring MPs to commit to effective measures to fix the health system.