The nurse-to-patient ratio component of our claim would ensure a mandated minimum number of nurses but would also have sufficient flexibility to factor in skill mix.
The introduction of nurse-to-patient ratios would mean an end to ad hoc rostering and guesswork. As an Award provision, public hospitals would have to staff to the ratios or close beds. Rostering nurses would no longer be at the whim of middle management under constant pressure to reduce budgets.
The current mechanism to regulate workloads – the reasonable workloads tool and clause – has produced some successes but it now only covers 30% of wards and does not provide a comprehensive model to ensure the right numbers of nurses and skills are available on all shifts and wards.
With nurse-to-patient ratios there will be adequate numbers of nurses on the roster weeks in advance. Directors of Nursing would have the budget to fund these extra nurses and provide safe staffing levels.
Nurse-to-patient ratios will break the reliance on overtime and other expensive ways of backfilling shifts.
Nurse-to-patient ratios will make it easier to recruit and retain nurses. It will give the NSW health system the ability to build a strong, stable nursing workforce in the short and long term.
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