Stressed nurses equals stressed health – May 2008

Nurses, midwives, doctors and the community all share the same concerns about our public health system. Wake up, Mr Iemma, and deal with these serious problems.

In this issue of The Lamp we report on presentations to the Garling Inquiry, which has systematically moved through the state listening to the views of the various stakeholders in our public health system (see page 20).

It is striking how the many, diverse voices giving evidence to the inquiry have been consistent in giving an analysis of the NSW  public acute care system, which is identical to concerns voiced by this union over a long period of time.

Nursing and midwifery are both great professions. Generally, nurses and midwives love their job but there are not enough of them, they are being asked to do too much and they don’t get enough support. As illustrated in our TV ads now being broadcast, public hospitals have become giant pressure cookers, ready to explode.

Nurses and midwives know this but many doctors and community members have also been telling Commissioner Garling this. They realise a stretched system is held together by nurses and midwives, and not much else.

Having commissioned the Garling Inquiry, the government must act on the findings and the evidence of the staff and community before it is too late to save our public health system from critical failure. Here is an opportunity to save our health system from its current state of ill health and now is the time to act.

A new survey (see page 23) of nurses and doctors conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney, shows that morale is at rock bottom among clinicians.

Around 60% of nurses and doctors in NSW public hospitals have seriously considered leaving the system in the past 12 months. This is a frightening figure.

Only 17% of doctors and 34% of nurses have trust in what their managers are telling them about what is really happening at work. No wonder the system has become so dysfunctional.

It is unsustainable to continue exploiting the goodwill and dedication of nurses to keep the system going.

There has to be a circuit breaker, the government must act.

Nurses and midwives have delivered significant efficiencies in the health system during the past three years. Yet, the Iemma government’s wages policy prohibits recognition for these contributions.

Our pay and conditions claim is underpinned by an analysis of what is required to fix the problems in our public health system. It is blindingly obvious that more nurses and more support for nurses and midwives is the key to improving the quality of patient care and to avoiding the breakdowns that have plagued the system.

Nurses and midwives know it. Doctors know it. The community knows it.

If the Iemma government and NSW Health want to regain the trust of these key stakeholders in our public health system they should move, and move quickly, to address the urgent issues that have been identified by nurses and midwives and outlined in our claim: fair conditions and fair pay that will make the profession attractive and make nurses want to stay.