Seize the moment and save our system – March 2008

Two critical processes are now in play which will open a rare window of opportunity for the Iemma government to solve the recurrent crises in our public hospitals.

Firstly, the Special Commission of Inquiry will throw an objective eye over the continuous breakdowns in the public health system (see page 21). And, secondly, the NSWNA claim for improved pay and conditions for nurses and midwives provides a once-every-four-year chance to make nursing more attractive (see page 12). The state government should seize this moment and, once and for all, deal with the systemic problems in our public health system.

Our claim is about delivering the people of NSW the world-class public health system they deserve.

Report after report from diverse and respected sources paints a consensus about key features of the system: nurses are the glue that holds the system together; there is a chronic nurse shortage; workloads are overwhelming and burnout widespread. Nationally-co-ordinated workforce planning, which requires foresight and resources, has been abysmal. Nurses inside the system are barely hanging on and nurses who have left are unlikely to return while the job is too demanding.

Yet high-quality patient care is reliant on access to skilled, experienced nurses.

It is our view that making the nursing profession more attractive to those still working inside our pubic health system and to those with the skills and experience who can be attracted back to the system is the key to solving the crises in health. Without their support new and less experienced nurses don’t stay.

Our claim, therefore, unashamedly focuses on retaining and rewarding experienced nurses. It advocates increasing the number of CNEs to provide support to new nurses entering the health system. It calls for the right balance between permanent and casual nurses. It is about fair conditions and fair pay so nurses stay.

Inquiry is an opportunity to look at the underlying causes of failure

The NSWNA welcomes the Special Commission of Inquiry into the public health system. This is an opportunity for an independent and respected person to thoroughly look at the health system and identify the systemic issues that lead to breakdowns. Too often these breakdowns are highlighted by the media need for a sensational headline and the focus is on the symptoms of failure rather than the causes. I urge members to use this opportunity seriously and constructively to help identify the underlying causes of problems in our public health system and make suggestions about solutions.

If you think you have a worthwhile contribution to make, I encourage you to make contact with the Association to seek advice and assistance (see page 23).

Joe Hockey’s awful truth

Well, now we know the truth.

‘When I took over the job I don’t think many ministers in the cabinet were aware that you could be worse off under WorkChoices and that you could actually have certain conditions taken away without compensation,’ Joe Hockey recently told the ABC’s Four Corners.

This admission is truly incredible. For two years the Liberal Party spent $120 million of taxpayers’ money on advertising telling us the complete opposite – that your rights at work were protected by law. Right up until the federal election, Hockey and the rest of the Liberal Party were strident in their condemnation of the union movement’s campaign in defence of workers’ rights, describing it as deceitful and dishonest.

We are now entering into a pay campaign in the public health system where we still have the benefits of the NSW IR system, which maintains many rights such as independent arbitration should it be necessary.

On the other hand, our members in private hospitals and aged care are still living with the legacy of WorkChoices and will be for some time yet with the Liberals still holding a majority in the Senate. Until these noxious laws are completely erased the Your Rights At Work campaign will not be over. In fact, it has taken on a new phase aimed at strengthening workers’ voices by joining unions. Nurses’ Rights at Work Worth Fighting and joining for.