Rallies for safe patient care

Public hospital nurses and midwives across NSW rallied for nurse-to-patient ratios.

NSWNA Branches across the State held lunchtime rallies to show the NSW Government they are serious about winning nurse-to-patient ratios.

Members took to the streets after the State Government refused to respond to the NSWNA claim for mandated nurse-to-patient ratios. NSWNA Branches at nearly every public hospital and community health service in NSW endorsed the ratios claim, which would guarantee a minimum staffing ratio and skill mix for every shift in public hospital wards and units.

Rallies were held 3-12 November at Prince of Wales Hospital, Mount Druitt Hospital, Wollongong Hospital, RPA Hospital, Nepean Hospital, Gosford Hospital and Gosford Mental Health Unit, St George Hospital, Westmead Hospital, Bankstown Hospital, Royal North Shore Hospital, Concord Hospital, Liverpool Hospital, John Hunter Hospital, Blacktown Hospital, Orange Base Hospital and Bathurst Base Hospital.

At the St George Hospital rally, NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes explained that staffing in NSW hospitals is done to budget and is not necessarily based on genuine, safe patient care requirements.

‘Nurses report that an increasing number of medication errors have occurred because of the heavy workload. That is not a good development. Safe patient care is undoubtedly compromised.

‘The workloads management clause in the current NSW Nurses and Midwives Award is not proving rigorous enough to address issues such as these.

‘The overwhelming feedback from NSW nurses is that ratios, with the right skill mix, are the way to get hospital management to fill vacancies and provide the staffing levels required to give quality, safe patient care and to protect the health and wellbeing of nurses. Victoria has these ratios and if Victoria can do it, NSW can do it,’ said Brett.

Blacktown nurses rally after attack

Nurses from Blacktown Hospital rallied in November after a nurse in the mental health Psychiatric Emergency Care Centre (PECC) unit was attacked.

‘It’s happened before,’ said Alyson Chapman, CNS and mental health nurse and the Branch Secretary. ‘Two years ago it was a doctor who was injured. Management is trying to address the physical issues in regard to the building – they are redesigning the PECC unit and installing a new duress alarm system.’

At least 50 members from two Branches – the general hospital Branch and mental health Branch – gathered just outside the hospital to highlight the need for mandated nurse-to-patient ratios.

‘The rally was kicked off by the attack on a nurse in psych, but falls right into the Association’s staffing ratios claim,’ said Alyson.

Staffing numbers impact on these types of attacks, according to Alyson. ‘If you get someone in who is quite psychotic, and the doctor is already backed up with three people, some evenings can get really busy. We can be hours waiting with these patients. It’s unpredictable and stressful for staff because we are short-staffed.’

The rally was a great success and helped to draw attention to the NSWNA’s ratios campaign. ‘Lots of people were very supportive; cars tooted as they went past. We’re only a small hospital but we feel very encouraged by the Association and its claim on our behalf,’ said Alyson.