Gunnedah fights for better ratios

Shoppers at Gunnedah’s produce markets got an insight into conditions at the local hospital when they stopped at a colourful stall set up by NSWNMA members last month.

Wearing union T-shirts and displaying banners that read “Ratios – put patient safety first”, nurses asked market goers to sign pledges of support for the improvement of nurse-to-patient ratios at Gunnedah District Hospital.

“People were interested in what we had to say and were happy to sign the pledges and show support,” said registered nurse Heather Franke, acting secretary of the hospital’s NSWNMA branch.

In conjunction with the union’s statewide ratios campaign, Gunnedah nurses are battling to have their Category C hospital correctly classified in order to qualify for ratios that should apply.

Some locals who stopped at the union stall already knew about the campaign thanks to earlier publicity generated by branch members.

Many Gunnedah shopkeepers had posted pledge notices in their windows after they were approached by Heather and branch president Jennifer Crough.

“A lot of the community are not aware that we do not have nurse-to-patient ratios. Store owners were all very happy to support us and put the notice in their windows,” Jennifer said.

Country patients deserve the same rights as the city

The pair also did a video interview with the “My Gunnedah” Facebook page focusing on two main demands: equal ratios for country and city hospitals and ratios to be safeguarded by legislation as in Victoria and Queensland.

“For interview talking points we used a media release from Brett Holmes (NSWNMA General Secretary),” Heather said.

“Currently if we have only three staff members on the general ward, one of those nurses could have eight or nine patients. This is not safe practice.

“Evidence has shown that having nurse-to-patient ratios saves lives and makes good economic sense.

“Big Category A hospitals have 1:4 ratios and we think our patients deserve the same care as they would get in a Sydney hospital.”

In the next stage of their campaign the NSWNMA branch is planning a community walk along the town’s main street and will invite nurses from surrounding towns in the state’s northwest to join them.

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