Our next task is to make ratios work

May 2011 EditorialMay2011

The improvements to staffing won in our pay and conditions campaign are excellent but there is still work to be done in order to make the benefits tangible.

Nurse-to-patient ratios as equivalents to Nursing Hours Per Patient Day are now legally embedded in our Award and the funding is available to bring about 1,400 new nurses into the NSW Public Health System over the next two years.

These significant gains are the fruit of a successful NSWNA campaign, and give nurses the potential to have more control over their workloads and more capacity to deliver better and safer patient care.

Our next task is to successfully implement these improvements so these gains become reality and our workplaces are less stressed, nurses’ jobs are more satisfying and patients reap the benefits with better care.

This will not occur overnight but the process is already underway. Ratios are to be phased in over two years but the first tranche of positions has already been advertised.

We have been deep in talks with NSW Health about where and when the first rollouts will occur. NSWNA officials have been crisscrossing the State holding information sessions to explain the improvements to members.

Nurses will get all the help possible from their Union so the implementation is smooth and effective. But to maximise the benefits it will also require nurses on the ground to be involved and to understand how the new improvements can be practically applied at the ward level.

NUMs will have an important role to play. For the implementation to be effective they will need to lead the way. The new Award gives NUMs more flexibility in how they roster.

As the funding has been committed for more staff, and ratios as equivalents to Nursing Hours Per Patient Day are now legally enforceable, for the first time ever NUMs will be in a stronger position when dealing with finance departments.

Of course, change can create difficulties and challenges that need to be met and worked through. The implementation of our new Memorandum of Understanding won’t be any different. But there are good reasons for there to be good faith in this process from staff and management. A significant amount of new resources will now be pumped into the system and that is a win/win situation for everybody.

The biggest winners should bethe NSW public. They expect and are entitled to a world-class health system. That goal was always at the forefront of our campaign. It will remain at the forefront as we now move on to the implementation.

Climate change is a health issue

Four years ago climate change became an important political issue in Australia as the alarming prognosis of the science and the consequences for our planet became appreciated by the wider public. Unfortunately, since then, public debate about climate change has become politically contentious and poisoned as the previous bipartisan approach has crumbled.

While the politicians have been squabbling, the planet has continued to warm. Climate change is a very important health issue and will have major consequences for our already overloaded health system and for nursing.

In this month’s Lamp (pp.18-23) we look at the health implications of climate change and what the science is telling us.

Nurses have a proud history of cutting through the political cant that often paralyses the quest for solutions to health problems.

Climate change is a seminal health issue and the consequences of inaction will be catastrophic. It is important that nurses understand this issue and contribute to finding a solution.

NSWNA election

The NSW State Electoral Commission has advised that I have been re-elected unopposed as the NSWNA General Secretary. I am grateful that Judith Kiejda and myself, along with my team of councillors – some of whom are new, have been elected unopposed so we can continue to deliver outcomes for nurses and midwives across all sectors of our membership.

Not one of us take that privilege for granted and every day we strive to meet the expectations of our members no matter how great they are.

I thank you for your support and confidence in my leadership.