The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) has secured the first phase of significant workforce reforms in the state’s public health system, after negotiating with the government-appointed Safe Staffing Levels Taskforce.
For the first time, NSW will have minimum and enforceable shift by shift nurse-to-patient ratios implemented in specific clinical areas of public hospitals, which is a major milestone in the NSWNMA’s longstanding fight for staffing reforms.
NSWNMA General Secretary, Shaye Candish, welcomed the first ratios rollout which will start in the Liverpool and Royal North Shore Hospital’s emergency departments (EDs) during March, with other EDs and wards to follow.
“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. In EDs, there will be one nurse allocated to every three treatment spaces,” said Ms Candish.
“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.
“We have lost far too many experienced nurses and midwives because NSW is the last mainland state to commit to nurse-to-patient ratios and their pay continues to fall behind their interstate counterparts, particularly following the increases to other public sector workers here in NSW.
“Nurses and midwives must not be forced to choose between safe workloads and fair pay for the work they do. This is a great first step, but there is more to do.”
NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Michael Whaites, said the first phase of ratios represented a foundation from which to build on and brings us closer to, or exceeds, what is in place in other states.
“We will see a more transparent, accountable, and enforceable staffing system delivered in NSW public hospitals,” said Mr Whaites.
“We’re confident these reforms will finally help to end years of chronic staff 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.”
The NSWNMA will be continuing to campaign hard to achieve ratios in the many specialty areas that are not yet covered by the Safe Staffing Levels policy.