The next stage in our campaign: the ballot box
The NSW state election on Saturday March 25 gives us a golden opportunity to advance our objective of achieving ratios in the Public Health System.
The last four years since the last state election have been traumatic for our Public Health System and for the nurses and midwives who have been propping it up.
During this time it has been easy to think that the Perottet government and the health workforce have been living in parallel universes.
In the bubble of Macquarie Street, the Premier and his health minister have only just started to move away from their fantastical assertion that the existing staffing system is effective and nurses and midwives are “coping” fine and should stop complaining.
Meanwhile in the real world the relentless pressure that has been exacerbated by COVID has taken a heavy physical and psychological toll on nurses and midwives.
There are numerous empirical studies that back this up.
They show that nurses and midwives are at real risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and are experiencing symptoms of fatigue, burnout, stress, anxiety, and depression.
Last year we had four strikes with massive participation by nurses and midwives and with overwhelming support from the community and even the media.
The message could not have been louder and clearer from those working at the frontline about the fragility of the system and the risks to patient care.
But still the Perottet government stubbornly refused and still refuses to listen and, unconscionably, refuses to act.
On March 25 there will be an opportunity to make the government accountable for this dereliction of duty.
The NSWNMA has consistently put forward our solutions to the problems of our crisis-ridden Public Health System which are based on the implementation of mandated, shift-by-shift ratios.
While the Coalition has ignored nurses and midwives other political parties have listened and responded.
The ALP hasn’t committed to everything we want but they have agreed to many of our proposals and we are confident we can persuade them to do more.
Both the Greens and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ Party have already committed to support mandated safe staffing ratios.
There are other issues in this election that are important to us as nurses and midwives and as union members.
The government’s wages policy has systematically eroded the standard of living of nurses and midwives and malignly impacted on their retirement incomes during the decade of its existence.
In 2020-21 at the height of the COVID crisis, as nurses and midwives literally risked their lives at the frontline of the pandemic, the government – with Dominic Perottet as Treasurer – shamefully responded by unilaterally limiting their pay rise to a disgraceful 0.3 per cent.
According to the Australia Institute, the pay caps have cost a nurse or midwife $80,000 each since they were first imposed in 2012.
This policy has to go and the ALP has promised it will if it wins office in March.
Another shameful Perottet government failure is workers compensation. An admirable scheme that was once a strong safety net for injured workers has now been described as “a basket case”.
It is a financial and moral disaster which has impacted negatively on many injured workers and their families’ mental health and wellbeing.
Most respondents to a survey conducted by the NSW Injured Workers’ Support Network said they experienced suicidal tendencies as a result of their experiences with the NSW workers compensation scheme.
In this coming election I would urge you to give a high priority to all these issues and how the respective party policies will impact on your jobs and the care we can deliver to our patients.
In particular we have to consider how our vote will advance our goal of having shift-by-shift ratios implemented across New South Wales.
The benefits of winning ratios will flow on to everyone who needs care and the standards set in the public health system will be a foundation for establishing the same conditions in the private sector.
Between now and March 25 let’s make one last push to reach out to the community to support us in this critical task of saving our Public Health System.