Invest in nurses and save our health system

Continuous breakdowns in the NSW public health system have finally driven the NSW State Government to call a Special Commission of Inquiry into Health.

The NSWNA will argue that tackling the huge workload problems and staffing shortages is a key to solving the recurrent crises in our public hospitals when it appears before the Special Commission of Inquiry into Health set up by the NSW government.

NSW Health Minister, Reba Meagher, announced the Inquiry after Deputy State Coroner, Carl Milanovich, listed a litany of systemic failures that contributed to the death of Vanessa Anderson.

The NSWNA has indicated it will cooperate completely with the Inquiry.

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes said if nurses had not taken up the slack the system would have imploded long ago and it is timely to look at what the problems in the system are.

‘Our public health system is held together by nurses and if they walk away from the profession, the system fails. Keeping experienced nurses in the system is the key to solving the ongoing health crises,’ he said.

‘If the inquiry is to be effective in finding solutions, then the severe shortage of nurses, extreme workloads and how resources are allocated must be addressed by the Commissioner.’

Not enough experienced nurses
Brett Holmes says skill mix is another area that needs close scrutiny.

‘Junior staff are constantly being left in charge of wards and units with little or no back-up from senior personnel. There are not enough clinical nurse educators in the NSW health system and in our view they are critical to the system’s capacity to deliver quality patient care,’ he said.

‘It is essential all nurses in the NSW health system have appropriate access to clinical nurse educators who are properly resourced and provided with the full support of management.’

The Commissioner, Peter Garling SC, has indicated that those issues will indeed be covered by the Inquiry. He will make informal visits to hospitals as well as public visits to take evidence from staff. The Commissioner intends to put together a consultative group of experts for advice. The Inquiry would not be conducted in an adversarial way, he said.

The Commissioner is expected to hand down his findings by 31 July 2008.