Opposition leader’s annual conference speech ‘a huge announcement’

Ratios pledge a boon for regions

Aged care registered nurse Lisa Streich says Labor leader Luke Foley’s promise to deliver staffing ratios will benefit regional hospitals and nursing home residents who depend on them.

Lisa, who works at a Blue Mountains nursing home, attended NSWNMA Annual Conference as a member-leader.

She was impressed by the Opposition leader’s pledge to bring ratios to regional hospitals and to lift regional staffing levels up to the levels of big city hospitals.

“It was a huge announcement – I was blown away by it,” she says. 

“If our Blue Mountains hospital at Katoomba is better staffed it will be a big help to local nursing homes. 

“The hospital is severely understaffed and they are often hesitant to take our residents because they simply don’t have enough staff and are forced to prioritise.

“It’s not the nurses’ fault. It’s the staffing system and lack of resources.”

Inspired to get involved

Lisa, who has worked in aged care for 26 years, says Foley’s announcement has inspired her to seek appointments with her state and federal Labor MPs to reinforce the need for ratios.

“I want to talk to our state member Trish Doyle to stress the need for better ratios and ask her to work to ensure that Labor delivers on its promises.

“Health minister Brad Hazzard also spoke at the conference.  He seems like a nice man but he gave us nothing. In a nutshell, his message was, ‘We are already spending too much on health and you’ll just have to cope with the staffing you’ve got’.

“I’m not a hardline Labor supporter but I will be voting Labor this time. And I’ll be advising people in the community that if they want their regional hospital to be able to support them they should vote for a party that is promising to do that.

“I would also like to speak to our federal member, Susan Templeman, about the urgent need for staffing ratios in aged care, which is a federal responsibility.

“Aged care staff are often expected to work in appalling conditions and the residents also suffer.

“I’m interested in campaigning for transparency on aged care funding. Three quarters of the money for aged care comes from the government yet there is no requirement that it go into providing adequate staffing or the training we are supposed to get.”

Lisa heard ACTU Secretary Sally McManus address conference on the union movement’s “Change the Rules” campaign for a fairer system of setting pay and working conditions.

“Sally gave an excellent speech. I had seen her on the telly but it was great to see her at our conference.

“Her speech helped me to see our nursing issues in the context of the whole union movement and society generally.”

Lisa says the Annual Conference “ran like clockwork. I couldn’t believe they got all these people together and everything ran so smoothly.”

‘Empowering’ speech a conference highlight 

Opposition leader Foley’s promise to fund ratios ‘a message we needed to hear’.

Opposition leader Luke Foley’s pledge to introduce a guaranteed ratios system for NSW public hospitals is “an empowering development” in the long battle for safer staffing and reasonable workloads, says midwife Rema Elhassan.

“It was monumental to be at Annual Conference to hear Luke Foley say he has heard and accepted our message and will be implementing nurse-to-patient ratios if Labor is elected,” she says.

Rema, who works at Auburn Hospital in western Sydney, was one of 29 NSWNMA “member leaders” invited to join 450 delegates at the NSWNMA Annual Conference in July.

“Luke Foley’s promise was something that we needed to hear from the leader of the alternative government. Health Minister Brad Hazzard also had an opportunity to endorse our claims when he addressed conference but chose not to.

“It’s now up to us to foster community engagement and awareness to ensure Labor is elected and uphold their promise.”

“Auburn Hospital’s NSWNMA branch held a rally for ratios outside the hospital late last month, inviting staff and community members to take part. Luke Foley also attended the rally to show his support.”

“Many people do not understand why we need ratios and why we need babies to be counted in Birthrate Plus calculations,” Rema says.

“We want to inform people that their vote is an asset which can be used for the benefit of the community.”

An opportunity to connect

Auburn is a category B hospital. Under the NSWNMA ratios claim, their 1:5 afternoon shift ratio would change to 1:4, while morning and night shifts would remain unchanged. Minimum ratios of 1:3 would be mandatory for emergency and paediatrics departments.

Rema describes her first ever attendance at Annual Conference as “an enriching experience” that allowed her to connect and network – and form friendships – with nurses and midwives from other hospitals and health care sectors.

“People tend to think that the Nurses and Midwives’ Association is mainly about unionism. They don’t realise it’s also about continuing education, gaining insights into different areas of nursing and health care, as well as activism.

“The conference professional day was partly devoted to emerging technology that is revolutionising how nursing and midwifery is taught and how we practice as clinicians.

“Attending the conference gave me an insight into the union’s decision-making process. It was beneficial to see how resolutions were put forward, amended and debated and to see how democracy is carried out within the Association.”

Letters to the Editor
Share your thoughts on this article or anything else important to you as nurses and midwives by sending a Letter to the Editor.

Four letters are published in the Lamp each month and the letter chosen as Letter of the Month will win a gift card. Please include a high-resolution photo along with your name, address, phone and membership number. You can submit your letter by emailing the Lamp: lamp@nswnma.asn.au