Country rallies for ratios

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Cover story - Country rallies for ratios - CH170413nursesrally-3

Nurse Bev Morris at the Coffs Harbour rally.

Thousands of nurses and midwives throughout rural and regional New South Wales have organised local rallies in support of our 2013 Public Health System pay and conditions campaign. In Goulburn, NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes told assembled nurses and midwives that they were sending a strong message to local MP Pru Goward that she must stand up for the people of Goulburn and its surrounding area.

“Nurses in country hospitals like Goulburn simply cannot provide the same level of care to patients with the same illness as their city colleagues.

“Under the current system a patient with pneumonia in Goulburn is allocated five hours of nursing care per day, but if that patient lived in Sydney, near Royal North Shore Hospital, they would be entitled to six hours of nursing care,” he said.

Jocelyn Fitzner, a Goulburn community mental health nurse, talked about the pressures faced by nurses in her field.

“We work in an under-resourced, under-staffed mental health environment unequal to our counterparts in the city.”

Goulburn mayor Geoff Kettle addressed the rally and agreed that something needs to be done to bring country hospitals up to the same staffing levels as the city.

“It is unfair that ratios are different in the city than they are here in country hospitals like Goulburn. We need to press the New South Wales government and you will have my 100% support,” he told nurses and midwives at the rally.

The bush deserves best care  

As The Lamp went to print rallies to launch the Ratios Put Patient Safety First campaign were taking part in all the major rural and regionals centres across the state.

Tyrone Dungey, Branch Secretary Grafton Base Hospital, Grafton, warned members that they could be in for a long fight.

“Maybe we really are tougher in the bush but does that mean we are entitled to less care? This is going to be a long and hard campaign. We’re going to have to work for this but it is worth working for.

“Mr O’Farrell, this is a simple claim. All the nurses are asking for is the chance to care for patients like we want to and like patients deserve. We want to put patient safety first.”

‘The sickest town in the Hunter’

Muswellbrook also got a good turnout of members to celebrate the launch of the campaign in the Hunter.

Lisa Kremmer, NSWNMA campaign director, pointed out the gross inequities in care between the city and a rural centre like Muswellbrook.

“In a place like Muswellbrook, on a 20-bed medical ward for example, compared to a 20-bed medical ward in one of Sydney’s hospitals, your patients are receiving 20 hours less care per day.”

The mayor of Muswellbrook, Martin Rush has also thrown his support behind the NSWNMA campaign.

Martin says that media reports called Muswellbrook the “sickest town in the Hunter” based on NSW Health studies showing that the area had higher rates of ED presentations for asthma and respiratory diseases than any other part of the state.

“A critical part of the solution to addressing these appalling statistics is to ensure the state government provides the level of service required to meet the needs of our community. This means an appropriate number of midwives and nursing staff to patients.

“The ‘Ratios put patient safety first’ campaign is an important step to boosting the numbers of nurses and improving the delivery of patient care in regional New South Wales communities.

“I am very pleased to provide my personal support to the campaign of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association to restore confidence in our health system, enhance patient safety and care and support nursing staff in the performance of their duties.”