Evidence: 15% pay rise for nurses and midwives is possible

As the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) continues pay and conditions talks, a new report has revealed how the state government can afford a 15% wage rise and complete its Safe Staffing ratios rollout, reforming the largest health workforce after a decade of neglect.

A Rapid Business Case prepared in conjunction with Deloitte, reveals the state government has missed out on billions of dollars in untapped Commonwealth revenue due to inaccurate hospital reporting. The report also highlights widespread savings to be generated, by reducing costs associated with staff turnover, overtime, agency staffing, and hospital acquired complications.

NSWNMA General Secretary, Shaye Candish, said the significant funding opportunities and cost savings identified in the report were compelling and further strengthened the feasibility of the union’s 2024 pay and conditions claim.

“This report demonstrates how the NSW Treasurer can afford both higher wages and more nursing and midwifery positions, by removing systemic inefficiencies in the healthcare system,” said Ms Candish.

“We can see more than $3 billion in untapped Commonwealth funds from the past five years because patient data is not being captured correctly.

“Our proposal shows that by improving NSW Health’s current patient reporting and accurately processing each treatment, access to Commonwealth funding, and the subsequent cap, will increase substantially.

“We know patients are getting sicker and presenting to NSW public hospitals acutely unwell and in need of care, but the data being captured by NSW Health is not reflecting the treatment that is provided, resulting in available Commonwealth funding not being claimed.

“According to Deloitte’s financial analysis, the potential revenue and savings to be made would cover the cost of implementing our 2024 claim, given the state government has already budgeted for a 3% per year public sector wages offer.”

Ms Candish said the nursing and midwifery workforce was in dire need of repair, and the focus had to be on recruitment and retention of skilled clinicians in NSW.

“Our workforce has been decimated by more than a decade of wage suppression by previous governments. If the state government is serious about retaining skilled and experienced staff, and attracting nurses and midwives back into these professions, it must pay wages that reflect the vital work they do shift after shift,” said Ms Candish.

“Attracting more staff into the NSW public health system will lead to better outcomes for patients. We need to see nurse-to-patient ratios introduced across all wards and units in all hospitals, to ensure patients have equal access to quality care regardless of their postcode.”

NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Michael Whaites, was alarmed by the unclaimed Commonwealth funding and urged the state government not to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors.

“The previous state government created this mess. Had the Coalition been efficient, our public health system wouldn’t be in the dreadful position it is in now,” said Mr Whaites.

“Importantly, this report shows the one-year 15% pay rise we are seeking is reasonable, justifiable, and affordable. As highlighted in the Escaping NSW Treasury’s Curse, nurses and midwives are living on 2008 wages, while trying to survive in a 2024 economic climate.

“The report also shows there are savings to be made if the government reinvested in state-owned and run residential aged care facilities. This would reduce bed block inside public hospitals and provide more permanent and appropriate accommodation for hundreds of elderly patients currently being left in acute hospital beds.

“Through a combination of increased revenue and a series of savings, we believe there is no valid reason for the state government to refuse our claim. If it does so, it will be because it chooses not to pay nurses and midwives what they’re worth.

“The government set us the challenge of finding system changes and savings to pay for improved wages and conditions. We’ve exceeded that challenge – the next move is for the government.”

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