Historic public health plan announced for Queensland

Sick and injured Queenslanders will be better protected under a historic nursing initiative announced today.

Queensland Nurses’ Union (QNU) Secretary Beth Mohle said the state government had today announced they would legislate nurse to patient ratios – or the number of patients that could safely be allocated to a single nurse in Queensland public health facilities.

Ms Mohle said an international study found seven-fold differences in the likelihood of patient mortalities between hospitals with varied nurse to patient numbers. She said there were currently no laws that governed how many patients could safely be allocated to a single nurse in Queensland’s public, private or aged care facilities.

“Today’s historic decision will make Queensland the second Australian state and one of only a handful of governments the world over to legislate nurse to patient ratios,’’ Ms Mohle said.

“Few people realise there are currently no laws governing how many patients can be safely be allocated to a single nurse in public, private or aged care facilities.

“But throughout Australia and around the world there are over worked nurses seriously concerned for the well-being of their patients. We are there when patients are recovering from illness, injury or surgery and we know the quality of care they receive can mean life or death.

“The Queensland Nurses’ Union has long campaigned for safe workloads and skill mix.

“Premier Palaszczuk’s decision to make patient safety law in our public health facilities is world-leading and will save lives in Queensland.’’

A study by Director of the United States’ Centre for Health Outcomes and Policy Research Dr Linda Aiken, found that an increase in a nurse’s workload by one patient increased the likelihood of an inpatient dying by seven per cent. A further study found that for every patient added to a nurse’s workload, readmission within 15-30 days increased 11 per cent for a child with a medical condition and 48 per cent for a child who had undergone surgery.

Nurse ratio legislation is expected to be introduced to the Victoria Parliament in coming months. Nurse ratios could soon be introduced in Wales, making it the first UK nation to implement the laws. In an American first, nurse ratios were introduced in California in 2004 after a 13-year campaign by the California Nurses’ Association.

Queensland looks set to join the handful of international governments that have enacted the lifesaving legislation when nurse ratio legislation is introduced to State Parliament early in 2016. It is planned to take effect from 1 July 2016.

The QNU also welcomes State Government funding for the employment of up to 4000 new graduates over four years, the creation of 400 Nurse Navigator positions and the children’s health initiative.

Nurse navigators will assist patients with chronic conditions or complex care needs by ensuring they receive the best care possible and don’t get lost in the system. The children’s health initiative will address cuts made under the previous LNP government and focus on our most vulnerable children to give them a better start.

“The unemployment and under employment of our graduate nurses and midwives in recent years has been an absolute disgrace,’’ Ms Mohle said.

“These graduates are the future of our workforce and this employment initiative is long overdue and extremely welcome.

“In addition, the creation of the Nurse Navigator positions marks a fundamental reframing of our health system. These navigators will focus on genuine patient-centred care across all care settings.’’

Ms Mohle said the QNU had campaigned for nurse ratio legislation and she hoped today’s announcement would provide hope for the state’s 30,000-plus public nurses.

She said Queensland nurses were over worked and seriously concerned for patient safety following the Newman administration’s cull of more than 1800 nursing and midwifery jobs state-wide. Many nurses regularly work double shifts and are unable to take leave due to staffing inadequacies. Many nurses do not take leave due to concerns for those in their care.

Ms Mohle said the QNU had been advised the State Government would provide some interim funding to address extreme nursing shortfalls ahead of the legislation.

“We are very pleased to be working with a government that respects and wants to listen to nurses,’’ Ms Mohle said.

“For too long Queensland nurses and midwives have been unseen and unheard – the importance of our work has not been recognised.

“The nurses and midwives who look after us when we are most vulnerable are overworked, tired and stressed.

“It is high time they were given hope things will change for the better.’’

The historic announcement comes just days before the QNU’s 34th  annual conference and the release of the QNU’s nurse ratio television advertising campaign to raise public awareness on the need for ratios in public, private and aged care health facilities.

The State Government’s ratio legislation will apply to Queensland’s public hospitals and health services. The QNU campaign will continue until the laws are rolled out to aged care and private facilities.

“No matter where Queenslanders are being cared for they have the right to expect the same high quality nursing and midwifery,’’ Ms Mohle said.

She said she hoped Queenslanders would take the time to thank the hard working nurses and midwives who helped campaigned for the introduction of nurse ratios and better patient outcomes.

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