It’s time to vote on the recommended Public Health System claim

"Country people are entitled to a level of patient care afforded to others in the state." - Brett Holmes
“Country people are entitled to a level of patient care afforded to others in the state.” – Brett Holmes

Our 2013 pay and conditions campaign in the Public Health System will seek to improve and extend the ratios won in our last campaign and a pay increase of 2.5% per year.

A recommended NSWNMA log of claims for the 2013 Public Health System Award campaign has been finalised by the log of claims committee and is to be voted on by members at branch meetings during February.

Voting will open at 9.00 am on Monday 18 February and close at 4.00 pm on Friday 1 March.

The recommended claim is the culmination of months of consultation with members through surveys, branch meetings, discussion groups and focus groups. An elected claims committee of delegates met to debate the possible claims and have recommended a strong package to Branches.

Some of the draft claims include the extension of ratios into specialty areas such as paediatrics and neonatal intensive care units, the improvement of ratios in all hospitals to the same level as Peer Group A, and a new mechanism to guarantee face-to-face, nurse-to-patient hours in community nursing.

The Association’s proposed claim also seeks a 2.5% pay rise per year for the life of the agreement.

NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes says that nurses are telling the Association that patient care and ratios are the most important thing and that wages need to keep pace with inflation.

“Let’s be crystal clear: we do not accept the government’s legislation to cap pay and rights – we never will.”

Ratios work so let’s build on them

In research commissioned by the NSWNMA, members were unequivocal that ratios work – as we said they would – where they have been implemented. More staff, members say, has led to better patient care and less stress for nurses.

This is consistent with a growing body of international research which shows that increasing nurse numbers and RN skill mix delivers better patient outcomes and avoids adverse events.  Brett Holmes says the outcomes from the implementation of current ratios have been a big success but there is more work to be done so ratios work properly.

“Now it’s time to improve and fund ratios for rural hospitals and extend them into more nursing specialties.”

Brett says another area where the Association will be aiming to introduce ratios is neonatal intensive care.

“Nurses in neonatal intensive care units carry an enormous responsibility with extremely vulnerable premature babies so they need mandated nurse numbers.”

Brett says while some country and smaller metro hospitals won ratios in the last campaign they were below the level of metro tertiary hospitals and need to be built on.

“We have always been aware that ratios would be achieved in an incremental way. Ratios were established in some country hospitals in our last campaign but their numbers now need to be lifted to those established in the city. Country people are entitled to a level of patient care afforded to others in the state.”

Brett says that community nursing is another important part of the claim.

“Community nursing is of growing importance in our health system with the ongoing shift towards primary care. It is in everyone’s interests to resource this area well. Not only will it lead to better patient care in the community it will relieve pressure on our public hospitals,” he said.

“We understand that ratios don’t work in community nursing but we want to see an equivalent mechanism that guarantees face-to-face time with patients.”

22 NSWNMA community branch meetings across NSW in 2012 endorsed this model for our campaign claim.

More CNEs

The 2013 claim seeks a funding commitment from the government for a further 275 FTE CNEs/CMEs – working across seven days and all shifts.

“Once the 2010 ratios system is completely implemented, there will be a definite improvement in skill mix, as the new graduates recruited in 2012 and 2013 consolidate their clinical practice,” Brett Holmes says.

“But achieving this will take more support than is currently promised if it is to genuinely take some pressure off our most experienced RNs.

“The government can and must do more to help by funding more CNEs, and not just on day shift. This is the real way to thoroughly and safely develop the clinical skills of beginning practitioners.”

Other staffing issues raised in the claim

  • Nurse Staffing for Patient Specials – patients requiring specialling shall have that care provided in addition to the minimum mandated nursing hours for the ward/unit that that patient would ordinarily receive.
  • Use of Midnight Census Data – the NSWNMA will seek a better system than the current “midnight census” to calculate the occupancy of a ward or unit. Currently this system is used to determine a ward’s average patient number in the calculation of the minimum mandated nursing hours required.
  • Protecting skill mix – two immediate improvements will help protect the skill mix of the nursing workforce: AiNs should only be introduced in accordance with the 2010 Assistants in Nursing working in the Acute Care Environment – Health Service Implementation Package. If this plan is followed correctly then appropriate engagement of AiNs will occur. And more CNEs as per the recommended claim will mean increased retention of new RNs and RMs.
 How we get a new Award
Activity When Status
Research – member survey, branch meetings, discussion groups 2012 Complete
Draft claim developed 2012-13 Complete
Branches vote on draft claim By 1 March Now
Claim sent to government & ministry March When approved by majority of Branches
Negotiations TBD When government makes an offer and responds to nurses’ claim
Member support to win a good result From now Ongoing
Vote on proposed settlement TBD Occurs when members are satisfied with government’s offer
Completed new award TBD When approved by Branches.


Have your say

Voting on the proposed 2013 PHS claim will open at 9.00 am on Monday 18 February and close at 4.00 pm on Friday 1 March. All NSWNMA members in the public health system are encouraged to attend their local branch meeting to discuss and vote on the claim.


Seeking a reasonable pay rise

The NSWNMA will seek a 2.5% pay increase per year for the life of the agreement. This will be in line with inflation forecasts by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Since our last campaign the environment in which we claim for more pay has changed drastically.

We have a different government. Not long after taking office the O’Farrell Government imposed a 2.5% cap on public sector wages. It took away the power of the independent umpire, the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, to arbitrate on pay, leaving the final decision in the hands of the government itself. Effectively, it took away your rights to a fair system for determining your pay and conditions. It also passed a law that insisted thet any award improvements over 2.5% per year must be ‘paid for’ by workers ‘trading of’ existing conditions. NSWNMA does not accept these laws – and never will. We will have to fight hard to make sure a safer public health system is not at the expense of nurses and midwives!

The O’Farrell Government has also relentlessly cut budgets in the public sector. This has led to massive job losses and the rolling back of public sector workplace conditions and protections. The government has gutted the Workers Compensation scheme, which has had major consequences for nurses.

All these cuts were justified by a so-called budgetary ‘black hole’ which has been exposed as false. The real agenda has been to reduce fairness in the workplace.

Brett Holmes says the Association’s recommended pay claim is responsible and nurses are entitled to a responsible government response on ratios in return.

“Our members are telling us that a 2.5% pay increase, that is in line with inflation, would be acceptable if it is accompanied by a a new award that funds the necessary extensions and improvements in ratios, so nurses can deliver safe patient care across the whole public health system,” he said.