Groundswell of anger: Nurses and midwives strike to be heard

In a sign of widespread frustration, nurses and midwives will participate in a 24-hour statewide strike next Thursday, over their demands for safe staffing to be guaranteed in all NSW public hospitals and health services.

A majority vote of NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) public sector members confirmed 94% in favour of the strike action, which will commence at 7am (morning shift) on 1 September and finish the following morning.

NSWNMA General Secretary, Shaye Candish, said nurses and midwives could no longer put up with the dangerous staffing levels and unsustainable workloads.

“Our members are angry, and they’re fed up with being ignored. We indicated to the NSW government earlier this year that we needed an open and meaningful dialogue with them about safe staffing,” said Ms Candish.

“We still don’t have mandated nurse-to-patient ratios in our public hospitals or health facilities and this is putting patients at risk. The NSW government is ignoring what’s desperately needed to ensure patients are getting the best possible care in their local hospitals.

“Our members are frustrated more than anything else because their concerns for patient safety have not been heard, and their professional perspectives and pleas for short and longer-term safe staffing solutions are not being acknowledged.

“Nurses and midwives are in a constant state of worry about their patients, and about what they can’t do for their patients because they can’t be everywhere at once. This is not sustainable.

“Clinical health professionals should not be in a situation which means that every shift they go to work, they have to decide which patient gets care, which patient waits, and which patient misses out.”

NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Michael Whaites, said both metropolitan and regional nurses and midwives were seriously overworked and the moral injury being reported was palpable, given the rising anger towards a system that’s preventing proper patient care.

“This widespread staffing crisis in our health system won’t simply go away as COVID-19 case numbers slowly start to decline,” added Mr Whaites.

“What our members are asking for is not unreasonable. They are simply asking for staffing ratios, a safer workplace and fair pay.

“There is growing evidence nurse-to-patient ratios do save lives and result in better patient outcomes, and legislated ratios have already saved the Queensland government millions of dollars.

“We are behind in NSW and more nurses and midwives are walking away because of what they’ve had to put up with shift after shift.

“We are supporting our members in taking this action to demand the NSW government listen to our calls for safe staffing ratios. If the NSW government won’t take action, nurses and midwives will.”

Over the next week, NSWNMA public sector branches will confirm details of public rallies to be held locally alongside community supporters.

During the 24-hour strike, life-preserving services will be maintained in all public hospitals and health services.

The NSWNMA also reiterated its ongoing willingness to meet with the NSW government to discuss members’ ongoing concerns.