A Labor government would implement improved nurse to patient ratios at regional hospitals across the state.
So said NSW opposition leader Luke Foley at Friday’s final day of the Nurses and Midwives Association annual conference on Friday, July 27.
Mr Foley said Labor’s commitment will bring hundreds more nurses to regional hospitals and bring their staffing levels up to city ones.
“At South East Regional Hospital, Batemans Bay District Hospital and Moruya District Hospital it’ll take the pressure off staff and patients in emergency departments and provide more care for children in paediatric wards,” he said.
“This expansion adds to what we have already announced – health care should not be post code dependent.
“Nurses are the bedrock of our hospitals. They make an extraordinary contribution but they need a system where their work can be delivered more efficiently – and without adding additional stress to their crucial jobs.”
Mr Foley said, if elected to government, Labor will employ hundreds more nurses in “B” and “C” group hospitals across NSW. This will improve patient care in about 60 separate hospitals – most of them outside Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle.
According to the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA), C group hospitals such as South East Regional Hospital at Bega, would see its current staffing of one nurse for every five patients on morning and day shifts improved to one nurse to four patients. The night shift ratio of 1:7 would remain.
The announcement did not come with any detail as to how the hundreds of extra positions would be funded.
Instead, Mr Foley said Labor’s “full and detailed policy will be released closer to the March 2019 election and will be fully costed”.
However, Member for Bega Andrew Constance said Labor’s announcement was “clumsy policy”.
“They are saying its only for emergency departments and paediatrics and under a blunt ratio rule,” Mr Constance said.
“What does it translate to in raw numbers? They can’t answer that. It’s clumsy policy”
“We’ve employed 7300 more nurses [since coming to government] and this year’s budget we’re funding another 1000.
“The best thing to do is hire more nurses and that’s what we’re doing. The key pressure on nurses at SERH was on the admin support and that has been dealt with under the recent review.
“Labor is offering a little bit of tokenism and not getting to the crux of the issue.”
Meanwhile, NSWNMA general secretary Brett Holmes welcomed the announcement and highlighted the difference it would make for patients, particularly those in regional NSW.
“Today’s commitment from NSW Labor is a giant leap in the right direction for patient safety. After eight years, nurses and midwives are finally being listened to,” Mr Holmes said.
“Ratios will save lives – evidence proves it. It’s a reliable system that meets the needs of patients and will put NSW on the right track to a more sustainable health system.
“The difference between a nurse caring for four patients in a ward and five patients can be a matter of life or death. International research shows that better ratios result in fewer patient complications and fewer deaths.”
Labor candidate for Bega Leanne Atkinson said ratios would provide immediate benefit and “a good outcome for everyone involved”.
“Our nurses do astonishing work given their workload. But we tend to forget that while they achieve remarkable results they are only human. This policy will give them the resources they need to continue their work – caring for the sick and most vulnerable in our community.”