Our message to the minister: we’ll keep fighting!

Minister Jillian Skinner announced some small enhancements to the health system at our annual conference but delegates were resolute in keeping the big-ticket items of improved and extended nurse-to-patient ratios and a fairer wages policy, on centre stage.

_MG_0094The New South Wales minister for health Jillian Skinner came to our annual conference armed with improvements to the health system that amounted to fairy dust.

Elected delegates representing 179 public health system branches came armed with resolutions to continue the fight for patient safety, fair industrial laws and a vibrant and equitable public health system in NSW.

In her speech to the conference Ms Skinner spent some time restating what her government has done in health since attaining office. But going forward there were only a handful of small initiatives.

She promised 30 new clinical support officers for smaller acute hospitals and mental health units and 30 new facility nurses for smaller acute inpatient facilities.

There was also an announcement of further unspecified enhancements to the role and number of nurse practitioners, and 1000 tablet deA61R9258vices for community nurses.

Ms Skinner said the tablet devices were an important step towards better integrating hospital and community services.

“I want to ensure our nurses have the most up-to-date and easy to use technological support,” she said.

NSWNMA General Secretary Brett Holmes said that while any improvements were welcome, the minister failed to address the real issues that impact on patient safety in those areas yet to get ratios.

“We welcome any commitment to additional funding and resources but we are skeptical of their impact on safe patient care unless they are legally guaranteed in the award,” he said. “The minister’s announcement only delivers the equivalent of 3.75 positions per Local Health District across rural New South Wales.”

Brett vowed that nurses and midwives would continue the fight to improve the public health system.

“The fight for extended ratios is ongoing,” he said. “Our resolve is to continue fighting for expanded nurse-to-patient ratios into all public health facilities and specialty units, including emergency departments, neonatal intensive care units, critical care, children’s wards, community health and more country hospitals, to ensure patients are receiving the best possible care.”

Edward Makepeace, an RN from Royal North Shore Hospital, presented Jillian Skinner with a petition of more than 10,000 signatures from residents across the state that support improved nurse-to-patient ratios.

Delegates also made clear to the minister the anger felt by nurses and midwives towards the state government, for using its unjust industrial relations laws to block bargaining for wages and conditions. A resolution passed by 179 NSWNMA branches the week before conference said:

“We further note they have forced upon us an inadequate 2.27% increase. We condemn the actions of the government, its outlawing of genuine Award negotiations and the removal of the independent umpire’s powers.”

Ms Skinner thanked the state’s nurses and midwives for the commitment and skill they bring to their work each day.

“On my regular visits to hospitals and health facilities across the state, I see the compassionate care that nurses and midwives provide to patients, their families and care givers. It is a large part of what makes me so proud to be New South Wales’ Minister for Health,” she said. “On behalf of the government, I thank our nurses and midwives for putting their patients first and for helping to make the New South Wales health system one of the best in the world.”


What Minister Skinner promised

30 new clinical support officers for smaller acute hospitals and mental health units.

30 new facility nurses for smaller acute inpatient facilities.

Further unspecified enhancements to the role and number of nurse practitioners.

1000 tablet devices for community nurses, giving them access to patient clinical information.

What Minister Skinner didn’t promise

Improvement and extension of nurse-to-patient ratios.

Changes to the government’s unfair wages policy.