Government ignores evidence-based solutions for regional health workforce

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) fears nursing and midwifery staff, patients and services will remain at risk, following the NSW government’s lackluster response to an inquiry into rural, regional and remote health.

NSWNMA General Secretary, Shaye Candish, said the NSW government response to nursing and midwifery workforce-related recommendations either referenced previous state budget commitments, a need for Commonwealth intervention, or current health policies and processes.

“The NSW government has missed another opportunity to address the systemic issues impacting its own health workforce. The same workforce attempting to keep the doors of their public hospitals or health services open to local communities despite widespread challenges,” said Ms Candish.

“After 21 months of evidence and more than 700 submissions, our members are outraged the NSW government has again chosen to ignore evidence-based workplace solutions, such as safe nursing and midwifery staffing ratios.

“We acknowledge the NSW government’s vague but much-needed allocation of extra nurses and midwives for regional areas, and the recruitment and retention incentives package, but unless they address the shocking working conditions staff are enduring, patients will continue to be at risk.”

NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Michael Whaites, said ongoing under staffing, poor skill mix and retention issues would remain across rural, regional and remote health facilities until the government was willing to adopt meaningful change.

“The inquiry overwhelmingly found that the level of healthcare afforded to regional patients is inadequate and this was supported by evidence from our members attempting to deliver that care, yet the NSW government response largely refers to maintaining a status quo on staffing and various conditions within the current nurses and midwives Award,” said Mr Whaites.

“The NSW government response fails to address the unrelenting workplace pressure experienced by nurses and midwives on each shift, particularly in multi-purpose services or community hospitals. It also fails to acknowledge any adverse impacts of a reliance on virtual care in acute or emergency care settings, particularly where no doctors are present for face-to-face care.

“There is also very little in the NSW government response towards ensuring adequate clinical nursing care for patients in federally-funded residential aged care beds.

“To improve safety and promote better patient outcomes, the NSW government could introduce nurse-to-patient ratios on every shift, including a minimum of three nurses in every rural and remote facility, two of whom are registered nurses with emergency care qualifications.

“If the NSW government ignores this and the evidence that safe staffing ratios save lives and money, many health services will remain at risk.”

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