Facts play second fiddle to misinformation

Zoe-Anne Guinea (Tweed), Kim Hoare (Murrumbidgee) and Rita Lewis (Ballina) at the National Party conference
Zoe-Anne Guinea (Tweed), Kim Hoare (Murrumbidgee) and Rita Lewis (Ballina) at the National Party conference

“Seek truth from facts” goes an old Chinese saying. That’s a bit hard to do when the O’Farrell Government and the Ministry of Health, whether deliberately or not, peddles a line of misinformation about our campaign.

Incredibly they are saying that ratios do not apply in the NSW Health system. The Lamp looks at what they are saying about our ratios campaign and tries to set the record straight.

What the government is saying about our ratios campaign

“Ratios” do not apply in the NSW Health system. Instead there is an agreed formula based on “nursing-hours-per-patient day”.

THE FACTS  This is untrue. We have never disputed the existence of NHPPD (we want to improve on it). The Award uses both nursing hours and ratios.

GOVT: The nurse staffing formula is the same for all regional and metro hospitals.

FACTS: This is untrue. Country hospitals and some specialties do not have the same nurse-to-patient ratios as hospitals in the city.

GOVT: The government has recruited 4000 nurses by headcount (more than 2000 FTE) against its commitment of 2475 more nurses

FACTS: This doesn’t stack up. Our last ratios campaign delivered 1580 more full-time equivalent positions to the system. If we look at the continuing shortages in the areas where we didn’t win ratios last time – community nursing, EDs and neo-natal ICUs – as well as the obvious need for more staff in country areas, then the government’s assertions of having delivered significantly more nurses on top of the 1580 looks dubious. What is tangible and verifiable is that there are 1580 extra FTE nurses in the system because it is guaranteed by the award, following a hard fought win in our last campaign. Ratios must be extended and improved in country areas and specialty areas for better patient safety.

GOVT: Andrew Stoner, a National Party member for Oxley was quoted as saying this about our ratios campaign on radio: “Now this argument that country hospitals ought to have the same as the peak city hospitals is like comparing apples and oranges. There are conditions that are not treated – you have different complex ranges of treatments that are not done in many country hospitals that are done in places like Royal North Shore. So you simply can’t compare it but if you look at the sheer statistics 1300 extra nurses across regional New South Wales, the Nurses’ Association should stop misleading their members and they should applaud the Nationals for what they’ve done since they came to power in New South Wales.”

FACTS: Independent research shows that a majority of nurses in NSW believe that ratios in the Public Health system are necessary for safe patient care. Our ratios claim is carefully researched and tailored based on international findings, and not a misrepresentation by the Association’s leadership. We argue that patients in the country should have the same nursing care as patients in the city for similar procedures like tonsillectomies, hysterectomies and hip and knee replacements just to name a few. Our research tells us that nurses and midwives, as well as the public, agree.