Jan Ogden was one of a delegation of nurses from the Prince of Wales (PoW) hospital who recently visited Liberal state MP for Coogee, Bruce Knotley-Smith, to seek his support to protect nurse-to-patient ratios, and other workplace rights, now under threat from the O’Farrell Government.
“We asked him where he stood. He wouldn’t commit himself. He obfuscated a fair bit. He promised to get back to us within a month after he did some ‘research’. He was non-committal. He just gave a party line,” she said.
“When we campaigned for ratios he supported us. He had his photo taken with one of our red shirts in the park for the local newspaper. But when we asked for his help this time he didn’t appear very supportive. He was a bit slippery.
“We told him we were very concerned that ratios and other workplace conditions, that we won and were now legally enforceable, could be taken away by the O’Farrell Government. A unilateral decision made about our award without our consultation! We explained how that was not good for nurses in the public health system nor for proper levels of patient care.”
Carolyn Hook, also from PoW, accompanied Jan to see Knotley-Smith. She too was less than impressed by his reaction.
“We told him we don’t want to lose our ratios – they are crucial to the staff at Prince of Wales and they deliver better patient outcomes. We don’t want to lose them after such a hard campaign and when they aren’t even completely implemented yet. Why would you take something away that is working perfectly well?
“He jumped all over the place. He didn’t want to hear what we had to say,” she said.
Both Jan and Carolyn say that even though Knotley-Smith was unresponsive it was well worth the effort to visit him and put him on the spot about what his government is doing.
“I went to see him because I want to put my point across even if it does fall on deaf ears,” said Jan.
Carolyn agreed: “I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t do something about it. Each one of us should do something to look after our collective interests as a profession – sign petitions, see an MP – do whatever we can.”
On 19 April, Edward Makepiece, Holly Allen, Siovhan Schreiber and Tammy Devereau met Jillian Skinner, the NSW Minister for Health.
The delegation of nurses told the Minister of the importance of minimum, mandated nurse-to-patient ratios that are enforceable and embedded in the award.
The Minister gave no commitment to maintaining ratios but said ‘NHPPD will stay in the award’.
When told that the NSWNA hoped to expand the areas that had converted to ratios in the future she said ‘Let’s work with what we have for now’.
The nurse-to-patient ratios won in our last pay and conditions campaign are scheduled to be phased in over two years. The table below gives a snapshot of how the implementation is going according to schedule.
Local Health District
Between July 2012-
No. Wards Converted
Additional FTE delivered
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