The single digit government

Cover story - the single digit government - SH0178A comprehensive survey of NSWNMA members has revealed a profound distrust of the state government and its management of the health system.

The NSWNMA undertook a comprehensive survey of our members to gauge attitudes about the health system and its management. The research found a relatively high level of satisfaction with the outcomes of the last pay and conditions campaign. There was a very high appreciation of the worth of ratios for safe patient care, and recognition that their expansion would be beneficial.

However the track record of the current state government has engendered a state of pessimism about the possibilities of improvement, and there was recognition that achieving positive outcomes from the next campaign would be much more difficult than the last.

The state government was given a withering assessment for its management of the health system.

The survey was completed by 2623 respondents – statistically, a very significant sample.

Ratios get a big tick

Members clearly recognise the value of ratios, although there is widespread concern that they are vulnerable to political interference.

Eighty-one per cent of nurses and midwives saw ratios as being “very important” to patient care. Another 15% saw them as being “quite important”.

While members clearly like ratios, they also feel they are not secure. Sixty-four per cent of survey respondents thought ratios were insecure (22% very insecure and 42% insecure).   Thirty per cent said they weren’t sure how secure they were.

The state government has been very vocal in claiming credit for the extra nurses coming into the system but that does not wash with nurses and midwives.

71% of survey respondents believed the extra numbers were a result of the last NSWNMA campaign, while 18% believed they were a result of a Labor government decision. Only 4% believed they were a product of an O’Farrell Government decision.

State rates poorly on health and IR

The 2623 nurses and midwives were asked to rate the current performance of the O’Farrell Government in nine areas related to health. In every area listed, less than 10% of respondents rated the O’Farrell Government’s performance as good.

Only 8% of nurses and midwives rated the government’s performance in implementing an effective health policy as good. Only 6% rated its performance in managing public hospitals and improving services in public hospitals as good.

When it came to the government’s performance on maintaining the employment conditions of public sector workers, the government’s rating came close, within a margin of error, to zero. Only 4% of nurses and midwives regarded their performance as good. 73% rated it as poor.

The areas with the highest “poor” performance ratings were:

  • Maintaining the state’s budget and economy (poor 73%).
  • Maintaining nursing numbers in public health services and hospitals (poor 67%).
  • Improving services in public hospitals (poor 65%).
  • Increasing trust in public hospitals (poor 65%).

The survey suggests nurses and midwives perceive the government to have a poor regard towards public sector workers.

Just over half (51%) of nurses and midwives said they thought the O’Farrell Government did not value public sector workers. Thirty-four per cent thought the state government was indifferent towards them.

As bad as their perception of the government’s performance was, nurses and midwives expect it to get even worse. Almost half believe it plans to remove the legal rights for unions to genuinely negotiate pay and conditions.


The performance of the state government

Total good   Total poor
Implementing an effective health policy 8% 48%
Delivery of public health services 9% 51%
Management of public hospitals 6% 59%
Improving services in public hospitals 6% 65%
Increasing trust in public hospitals 7% 65%
Maintaining nursing numbers in public health services and hospitals 6% 67%
Improving quality of patient care 7% 60%
Maintaining public sector workers’ employment conditions 4% 73%
Managing the state’s budget and economy 6% 59%

The importance of ratios

To the profession To patient care
Very important 77% 81%
Quite important 18% 15%
A little important 2% 2%
Not very important 1% 1%
Don’t know 2% 2%