Nurses hold system together

The public health system in NSW would all but collapse if it were not for the goodwill and dedication of nurses and midwives but they need to be rewarded if they are to remain, the NSWNA has told the Garling Inquiry.

The NSWNA presented a submission to the Garling Inquiry expressing the hope that the Inquiry will mark ‘a new era of very real and meaningful reform in the NSW public hospital system’.

The submission stresses that immediate action is required and that, to date, the responses to frequent systemic breakdowns have been too timid.

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes said nurses hold the system together, but collectively they are close to breaking point.

‘Nurses and midwives routinely accept excessive workloads, unpaid overtime, poor support services and inadequate pay in order to maintain the most vital community service,’ he said.

‘Our members report there is a growing gap between the safe, high quality care they want to deliver and the realities of unsafe skill mix, excessive workloads and the constant pressure of cost-containment.’

The submission states that nurses are attracted to and remain in nursing because of the rewards gained from undertaking caring work in a professional manner, but this alone is not enough to ensure that nurses remain in the workforce.

‘Nurses expect remuneration levels and working conditions that recognise and value their contributions to patient care and the health of the community,’ said the NSWNA in its submission.

The NSWNA told the inquiry that its claim for a new pay and conditions agreement for public health system nurses and midwives in NSW provided the framework for a stronger and more sustainable nursing and midwifery workforce for the people of NSW.

‘The claim was crafted after a substantial process of consultation with our members and reflects their views on what is needed to fix the system. Overwhelmingly, the message from our members has been they want an agreement that will provide a framework for improved safety, both for staff and patients, and better quality care.’

Brett Holmes said the claim had been designed to foster the creation of a nursing and midwifery workforce for the public health system, with the capacity to provide care of the standard required to meet the health needs of the people of NSW.

‘Nurses and midwives have told us they want meaningful recognition and fair pay for their increased workloads and responsibilities.

They want better attraction and retention initiatives so there will be safer workplaces for staff and patients and they believe more experienced and specialist nurses are needed to support and supervise trainee and developing staff and maintain a culture of continuous improvement.’

Key recommendations in NSWNA submission to Garling
The NSWNA has recommended that:

  • A body be established to oversee a process of real and meaningful consultation with the community with the express goal of enabling the community to make informed choices about the future of the public hospital sector in NSW;
  • Nurse and midwife leadership positions be embedded at every level of management within the public health system;
  • Adequate funding be provided to ensure nurse and midwife staffing levels and skill mix are sufficient to meet the service demands of the acute hospital sector;
  • Greater flexibility in shift patterns to promote work environments that successfully retain nurses;
  • A review of the effectiveness of existing policies and procedures in relation to bullying and harassment;
  • An increase in the number of Clinical Nurse Educator positions so there is one CNE for every 40 direct care nursing staff, an increase of approximately 225 additional positions;
  • Adequate funding for administrative and clerical support;
  • All health staff, including management at all levels, undergo a process of education (including refreshers), in the National Patient Safety Education Framework to build a culture of patient safety.