Standing up for safety and quality of services

Editorialoct2011October 2011

Nurses are standing up for safe patient care and better services in our hospitals and in a wider realm in unison with other public sector workers.

Last month saw some significant actions that showed nurses and other public sector workers are determined to stand up and defend their professions and the people who depend on them in the face of the State Government’s attack on our rights and public services.

Up to 40,000 people turned up in The Domain to send a clear message to Premier O’Farrell that job cuts and a wage freeze in the public sector will not be met lying down. This was more than double the amount that turned up for a rally in June.

It shows that anger is rising and momentum is building against the Government’s unnecessary and counterproductive measures.

People are not swallowing the Government’s misleading arguments about a ‘budget black hole’. They are not gullible. Public sector workers – not least nurses and midwives – understand there is no fat in the system. There are no opportunities for further productivity improvements.

A wages policy that applies a rigid cookie cutter approach is just ignorant of the facts on the ground. How will a wage freeze help attract nurses and midwives back into the system? How will cuts to ancillary services help free nurses up to deliver the necessary clinical care?

I applaud all the nurses, teachers, fire fighters, police and other public sector workers who rallied for their rights on 8 September. The Government, including all those new Members of Parliament elected with small margins, know they has a fight on their hands.

We need to be aware this will be a long fight. The Government is fresh to office and has a large majority. There are another three and a half years until the next election. These are the sort of circumstances that tend to breed hubris and arrogance in politicians. This State has seen enough of that.

We need to continue to build our unity and maintain the pressure, and we have every intention of doing so.

Tailoring services to resources

Nurses are not just taking to the streets to protect the integrity of our public services. They are also taking action in the workplace.

Nurses at Orange Base Hospital have just capped the use of beds after management failed to provide the resources needed to meet demand.

Capping beds and closing beds is not an action that comes easily to us as nurses. It is not an action we have readily resorted to in the past.

At the heart of our ratios campaign was recognition that nurses had nothing left to give and that the Government and the Health Department had to find more resources for our health system.

This is necessary if nurses are to deliver safe, high-quality care.

This view drove the actions of the Orange nurses and midwives. They refused to compromise the safety of their patients. So, they limited the services that they provide to what they can deliver. Next month I hope to be able to give more detail on Lismore.

Similar predicaments are presenting throughout the state. It’s a tough decision to make. But nurses are fully entitled to make it.