We need a new government to tackle NSW’s health crisis
The Perrottet government has shown itself incapable and unwilling to even try to fix a public health system crisis that has been getting worse year by year.
The empirical evidence of a critical staffing crisis in our public health system just keeps piling up, yet the NSW Government refuses to budge from its hands-off stance, even when we are on the cusp of a state election.
A study by Professor David Peetz, a highly respected labour market academic from Griffith University, shows that the nurse and midwife shortage in NSW has been getting progressively worse for the last decade but accelerated markedly during the pandemic.
His research shows that the COVID-19 pandemic put special pressures on essential workers, especially nurses and midwives, compared to other occupations.
Internet vacancies for registered nurses in NSW trebled between 2012 and 2022, with a 125 per cent increase over the past five years and a 48 per cent increase over the two years to 2022, the report found.
Adverse conditions at work and poor pay were major determinants behind the shortages.
Another report released recently by the Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre shows the dire consequences for nurses and midwives from the devastating loss of experienced clinical staff from the state’s public health system.
Over 15 per cent of nurses surveyed suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress at clinical levels. Overwork, exhaustion and burnout were identified as key contributors.
The report found better pay, better workplace support and reduced workloads were the top three retention measures needed to get nurses and midwives to stay in their jobs.
The Perrottet government’s track record and current position on wages and staffing do not bode well for nurses, midwives and the public health system if they are re-elected in the state election on 25 March.
Poor pay, unbearable workloads and relentless stress have created a spiral in our public health system, with staff leaving the system to protect their own health and safety – leading to even more strain on the system and even more pressure on those left to prop it up.
This is unlikely to change if the current government is re-elected.
There is an alternative
The ALP opposition at least recognises the system needs help and an injection of resources. While they are still not committing fully to our ratios claim they are committing to a lot of it.
We will still have a lot to do to put our public health system back on solid, sustainable footings after more than a decade of appalling neglect.
But it is reasonable to say that Labor historically has been committed to a strong, accessible public health system.
We see that already in the actions of the Albanese government at the federal level in both aged care and with Medicare.
The Albanese government has moved quickly to start the rebuild of aged care. And its Strengthening Medicare Taskforce has recommended exciting roles for nurses and midwives in an expanded multidisciplinary primary health care system.
It will take time to get aged care and Medicare to where they need to be for the future welfare of Australians.
But there is one thing we can commend the Albanese government for: they have listened to what nurses and midwives have to say and have included the ANMF at the table where solutions are formulated and decisions are made.
This is what we need in NSW – a government that listens to those operating at the frontline of health and responds with concrete solutions to the glaring problems.
We know ratios saves lives and are central to resolving many of the problems in the public health system. On 25 March, I would urge you to vote for candidates who support ratios.