Labor sticks to its pledge on ratios

The NSW Opposition has changed its leader but its policy on ratios remains the same.

The new NSW Opposition leader Michael Daley has quickly moved to re-commit his party to deliver new nurse to patient ratios if it wins office after the next state election in March.

Mr Daley re-committed Labor to:

  • Introduce a new shift-by-shift ratio system from 1 July 2019
  • Introduce 1:3 ratios in emergency departments and pediatrics
  • Bring regional staffing levels up to city levels
  • Work to fix the specialling problem.

These commitments are completely consistent with Labor’s previous announcements.

This means we still have a clear pathway to ratios in our public health system that would reward many years of campaigning and advocacy by nurses and midwives to the benefit of patients.

The opportunity for new ratios remains alive and real in our public health system.

This continuity shows ratios are clearly embedded in ALP policy and are not dependent on any individual who may lead the party.

It reflects the strength of our arguments and the weight of evidence that shows ratios save lives and improve patient care.

In addition to the implementation of comprehensive shift-by-shift ratios, Michael Daley has also committed to an extra 250 security staff with additional powers that “will be placed in NSW hospitals to protect staff, patients and families”.

The NSW government has also announced an initiative to assess the threat to safety in our public hospitals.

The Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard, has appointed Peter Anderson, a highly respected former Health and Police Minister, to review the impact of the 12-point plan on hospital security, established in 2016, and to consider any additional strategies to improve safety.

These measures from both Labor and the government are welcome in light of a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Technology, Sydney (see pp 10-11).

This comprehensive survey showed that there are alarming levels of violence against nurses and midwives across the entire health system.

Twenty four per cent had suffered physical violence. It is worth digesting that sentence more than once. A quarter of nurses had been the victim of physical violence in the course of doing their jobs delivering care.

As the researcher who conducted the survey said: This makes the job more dangerous than that of the police and prison officers.

Not only is the violence widespread, it is getting worse. Three quarters of nurses and midwives who responded to the survey believe the frequency of violent episodes was increasing.

There are many complex reasons why violence has become endemic in our health facilities. But it cannot be ignored that understaffing leaves nurses and midwives more vulnerable to aggression.

Labor’s promise to increase nursing and midwife numbers along with the deployment of more security and the government’s review of safety won’t solve this problem alone.

But they are a very good place to start.

Thanks for your ongoing support

The Australian Electoral Commission recently announced that Judith Kiejda and I have been re-elected unopposed following the closure of nominations for the ANMF NSW Branch Secretary and Assistant Secretary positions (along with Branch Councillors).

This also means that we have been re-elected to the NSWNMA General Secretary and Assistant General Secretary positions.

We are both grateful for your ongoing support for our leadership of your unions. Much has changed since our first election in 2003 and we have had to lead that change.

Politicians have chosen to remove your traditional industrial rights and we have had to encourage you to engage with the politicians who, ultimately, are the decision makers. Most members understand the reason for doing things differently.

We now face a further attack from the State Government that is trying to restrict our capacity to engage in the political debate as third party campaigners.  We are relying on the High Court to give your public voice back so that your issues can be widely heard by the community in the lead up to elections.

Should the High Court decide otherwise – and in favour of politicians with their loud and dominating voices – then our union will have to make further changes to meet that challenge. We will ensure your voice is never silenced when it comes to advocating for safer patient care.

It is a great privilege to lead the ANMF NSW Branch and the NSWNMA. We do not take that for granted. Judith and I thank you for your support.