We’re all campaigning for nurse-to-patient ratios – October 2010

The NSWNA and members are busy campaigning to inform the community and encourage the NSW MPs to support our claim for nurse-to-patient ratios.

For several weeks now NSWNA members have visited NSW MPs to encourage them to support our campaign for mandated nurse-to-patient ratios.

We are telling MPs that the implementation of nurse-to-patient ratios in Victoria 10 years ago has made things considerably better in their health system. It has led to a much safer environment for patients, improved the morale of the nursing workforce, attracted many experienced nurses back to nursing and reduced public complaints about the system.

The people of NSW are entitled to similar outcomes. If Victoria can do it, we can do it.
We understand the funding of ratios and the future supply of appropriately skilled nurses are significant issues. But they are not insurmountable – especially with a commitment by the State Government and, with national health reform underway, the Federal Government, which will soon directly fund 60% of the cost of hospital procedures.

We have made it clear that guaranteeing a mandated minimum nurse-to-patient ratio in our public health system is, in our opinion, the best thing our State Government could do in the interests of the people of NSW. It will also ensure the national reform process does actually improve people’s experience of the hospital and community health system.

Our campaign will only succeed if we enlist the support of the community, show our willingness to act in the workplace and apply pressure on the Government.

Many of our members have been letter boxing their neighbourhoods with leaflets about our claim (see p.15). I would encourage you to help us get our message out in this way. A 20-minute walk around your block could convince many people to support us.

We also intend to educate the public about the benefits of ratios through TV advertising.

Advertising to support nurses and health
Over the last few years the NSWNA has undertaken several TV advertising campaigns.
I acknowledge that some members are uncomfortable with some of our TV advertising during elections. It is an intervention into political and policy debates that isn’t taken lightly.
We have done so because we cannot just rely on the goodwill of politicians if we are to fix the problems in our health system. Experience shows us that both major parties will sit on their hands and do nothing unless we act and take the public with us.

At the core of our message – always – is advocacy for the interests of nurses and the health system, not for any particular party. Ultimately, we call it as we see it at the time. And sometimes that means acknowledging that one party’s policies are more in the interests of nurses and the health system than others.

We still retain our political independence. Unlike many other unions we are not affiliated to the Labor Party and will remain so.

Our campaigns and interventions have produced results. WorkChoices was turned back and even a diehard supporter like Tony Abbott has been forced to a position where it is ‘dead, buried and cremated’.

After a decade and more of neglect, billions of extra dollars have been pumped into the public health system and there has been a significant increase in funding of aged care nurses.

We cannot assume that because everyone loves a nurse that politicians will do the right thing by us. We have to do what we can to make sure our voice is heard and that politicians understand our capacity to influence public opinion on health and workplace issues.