Let’s take our campaign wider

Editorialmar2012March 2013

Voting has now closed on our 2013 Public Health System log of claims with a comprehensive vote in favour of the recommended claim.

This marks the end of the initial stage of our campaign to improve and extend ratios in the public health system and signals the beginning of the next stage.

We will present the claim to the state government in the near future allowing plenty of time for negotiations to take place before the current award expires on 30 June.

Our big challenge now is to convince the government and the public of the merits of our claim. We know from long experience that improvements to public health and to nurses and midwives’ pay and conditions will not be given to us on a plate. They will come because we are organized and determined and prepared to act and after we have done the hard work to win the support of the public.

The Association has already started a TV campaign to educate the public about our issues and to try and win their support for our campaign for more nurses.

We need to continue this approach of educating and convincing people of the need for more nurses on all fronts including with NSW Members of Parliament.

We need to convince the politicians

It is vital we get our message through to the politicians. We can’t assume that they understand all the issues involved in the health sector. Ultimately they are the decision makers who make the final call. It is vital we convince them of the merit of our campaign. It is crucial that they hear the perspective of nurses: our view of what is happening in our public health system and what is needed to improve it.

Our experience and our research tell us that nurses have a very credible voice on issues of health. We are correctly perceived as being at the frontline, that we understand the issues and we have a credible track record as honest advocates for improvements that will benefit our patients.

Recent media attacks on adverse events and undesirable outcomes remind us however that nurses and midwives’ positive public profile is not sacrosanct. If care ever falls below expected standards we can expect close scrutiny by the public and the media. We need to bear this in mind in all we do as professionals and as a union.

In this issue of The Lamp (see pages 18-19) we profile some branches who have already visited their local MP to argue our case and enlist their support. Obviously many backbenchers will not want to deviate from their party line. We need to remind them that their first responsibility is to their electorates and that we expect them to go back to their party rooms and advocate for the patients of their electorate. This is how politics should be determined – not by dictat from the Treasury.

If you haven’t already done so I would urge all NSWNMA branches to organize delegations to visit your local MP and argue your case for more nurses.

There is plenty of evidence to support our case

The arguments we can present to MPs are not emotional and self-serving. They are grounded in fact and underpinned and supported by a vast and growing body of research.

More and more studies, taken from a wide variety of international settings, using large, statistically significant samples are coming to similar conclusions: that there is a strong link between higher nurse staffing and higher RN to patient ratios and lower hospital-related mortality and safer patient outcomes (see pages 22-23).

In our last public health system campaign we achieved great things but the job isn’t finished. Many hospitals and nursing specialties achieved significant improvements. We now all need to stand together to see these improvements extended into new areas that need them just as urgently.

More community nurses will reduce the pressure on public hospitals. More ED nurses will improve patient flow from the source. More country nurses will make rural health more sustainable. The public health system is so interconnected and interdependent that we will all benefit from extensions and improvements to ratios in these areas.