International Nurses Day and International Day of the Midwife are always days of celebration. But this year, they were also days to make a statement.
At a rally outside the John Hunter Hospital on the International Day of the Midwife, Jessica Plater, a midwife and an RN, said Australian maternity wards were shockingly out of step with the theme for this year’s IDM: “100 years of progress”.
“Why does it feel that today … we have made minimal to no progress at all?” Jessica told the crowd of midwives and their supporters at the lunchtime rally on 5 May.
“Why are we still fighting for our right to fair pay, ratios and to make our babies count? At any given time, a midwife can have anywhere between four to eight women in their care and that does not include their babies!
“When you start to include our babies, our patient load can then be anywhere from eight to 16 patients,” said Jessica, who has been a midwife for five years.
“How is this fair on our midwives and how is this fair on our women and the care they receive?
“International Day of the Midwife is meant to be a celebration of our wonderful and rewarding profession, but instead of celebrating, we are here today, exhausted and burnt out, to fight for our right for fair pay, ratios and to make our babies count.”
Chronic understaffing means midwives are doing more shifts to fill the gaps. And the poor pay for midwives in NSW compared to other states exacerbates the issue.
It’s not uncommon for NSW midwives to move to other states because of better pay, Jessica told The Lamp.
Prince of Wales
The issue of ratios was also front and centre at a rally outside the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick on International Nurses Day on 12 May.
Kath Power, a Clinical NUM1 in the Emergency Department, told The Lamp: “We’re unable to provide safe patient care at present with our current ratios.”
Nurse-to-patient ratios are currently one to five in the department’s short stay area, and two to three in the resuscitation area.
Kath said the union wants “a ratio of one nurse to every three in the Emergency Department, one to four in the short stay area and general wards, and one to one in the resuscitation area”.
“Nurses’ workloads are high, we are understaffed, staff morale is at its lowest and sadly, nurses are leaving. It’s disappointing that NSW is lagging behind Victoria and Queensland on this issue.”
Improved wages for nurses in aged care facilities is another key issue, she added, as is having registered nurses in aged care facilities around the clock. This would stem the frequent transfer of aged care residents to emergency departments at night, Kath explained.
The rally, on the corner of Barker and Avoca streets, was held in the pouring rain, but it attracted support from Matt Thistlewaite, the federal member for Kingsford Smith, and representatives from the Greens party.
“A lot of people were beeping their horns in support,” Kath said.
“We’ve had ratios on our agenda for years and it is not progressing. So we will do anything we can to bring it to the awareness of the general public.”