The Coalition’s alternative

In June 2006, the NSW Coalition released its policy on nursing for NSW, Bringing Nurses Back, in which it suggested that if in government the NSW Coalition will achieve the following goals:

  • attract more nurses (500 in addition to the current positions advertised over four years);
  • better recognise their worth;
  • build vital skills and provide the nursing profession with the support it deserves (employ an additional 50 clinical nurse educators  over four years); and,
  • give nurses a say in how things are done (establishing nursing staff councils and a new hospital board structure).

The proposal that 500 additional nurses are needed on top of the current vacancy numbers was developed without the benefit of planning and research. The NSWNA believes that just settling on a figure of 500 across the whole system over four years lacks recognition of the importance of good research and planning.

We also believe the promise of 50 additional clinical nurse educators (CNEs) over a four year term of office is an underestimation of need. This may assist two to three of our major hospitals which do not currently employ CNEs but leaves 240 or more of our public hospitals and community health centres with no additional funded CNE positions.

NSWNA general Secretary Brett Holmes said the proposal to re-establish hospital boards is a step back into the past of 20 years ago and would require another restructure of our health system, which would put the already restructure-exhausted nurses into yet more years of uncertainty. ‘The establishment of nursing staff councils provides no guarantee that nurses will be able to make an appropriate contribution to operational management of our health system,’ he said.

Other Coalition health policies

  • A promise of an extra 150 caseworkers and 150 accommodation places for the mentally ill.
  • Peter Debnam says he will cut 20,000 jobs from public services, a move the NSWNA fears will reduce valuable support to nurses from other health workers.

Message from Peter Debnam to nurses

The NSW Liberal/Nationals values nurses highly. We know that, without nurses, we cannot address serious problems confronting hospitals.

With insufficient nurses, beds are closed, Emergency Departments are blocked because patients can’t be admitted to the wards, staff are run off their feet and morale hits rock bottom.

Many nurses have contacted us regarding loss of promotion opportunities with the restructure of Health when Morris Iemma was Health Minister; they have registered their concern at the lack of basic resources and the constant demand for them to do more with less.

A NSW Liberal/Nationals Government will address this. We place a very high value on ensuring a satisfied nursing workforce. I have made it clear that public hospital nurses will remain in the State system, with pay and conditions not only maintained, but enhanced.

Our policy ‘Bringing Nurses Back’ commits $207.8 million over four years to:

  • Improve nursing degree courses by ensuring a greater amount of time is spent in clinical practice in hospitals or other health settings and investigating the opportunities for accelerated degrees to be off-set by nursing internships ($28.3 million);
  • Increase retraining opportunities for registered and enrolled nurses wishing to re-enter the workforce ($4 million);
  • Appoint an extra 50 clinical nurse educators over our first term to enable recent nursing graduates to receive a greater degree of mentoring ($8.8 million);
  • Provide funding for 500 more nurses in our first term of government. This is above and on top of the existing vacant full-time nursing positions (bringing the total to 1,800 positions) ($85.3 million);
  • Establish an additional quarantined fund to enable individual hospitals to negotiate benefits to meet the particular needs of nurses at that workplace. ($81.4 million);
  • Give nurses more recognition and control by maintaining senior nursing management positions, ensuring they are underpinned by strong support positions; establishing Nursing Staff Councils to give nurses the same clout and direct access to the Minister as doctors’ Medical Staff Councils; and ensuring nurse representation on each local hospital board.

Peter Debnam MP NSW Opposition Leader