EDs in desperate need of 1:3 nursing ratios

Pressure is mounting inside the state’s emergency departments (EDs), with the latest hospital data revealing the time patients spend waiting to be admitted has blown-out to more than five and a half hours, the longest median time recorded in the past five years.

The Bureau of Health Information’s latest quarterly report has reinforced concerns raised by the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) that patients were increasingly presenting in dire need of urgent medical help.

The January to March 2021 figures showed the volume of ‘emergency’ (triage category 2) and ‘urgent’ (triage category 3) presentations were the highest recorded over the five-year period for that quarter.

NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, reiterated the NSW government must implement ratios of one nurse to three patients (1:3) in ED and ensure patient safety was prioritised across the system.

“The amount of time critically ill patients are waiting for admission to a ward bed reinforces the absolute need to ensure our EDs have at least one nurse for every three patients at all times,” said Mr Holmes.

“We need shift-by-shift ratios in EDs to ensure patients, who are presenting acutely unwell, can get the right care when they need it.

“These figures confirm it’s taking longer for patients to be seen and leave on time, which is a recipe for heightened aggression and abuse towards frontline nurses just trying to do their jobs.

“Not to mention, the highest number of ambulance responses for any January to March quarter over the past five years, which impacted on the time it took to transfer patients from paramedics to ED staff.

“The volume of elective surgeries carried out, up 13.9% (or 7,065), was also highest for that quarter since 2017.

“Our members know that what happens inside an ED has a ripple effect across their hospital. Safe staffing must be prioritised to help address these concerns.

“Many of our nurses are at breaking point because if they’re not run off their feet in the ED, they’re flat out raising workload issues with hospital management to little or no avail.

“We need mandated nurse-to-patient ratios in our hospitals, just like they have in Queensland and Victoria. The NSW government’s preferred staffing model is outdated, unsafe and frequently fails to deliver the right number of nurses needed on every shift.”

The NSW government has refused to negotiate with the NSWNMA on introducing nurse-to-patient ratios, despite widespread industrial actions in metropolitan and regional areas.

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