NSW budget in surplus, yet hospitals still understaffed

The state government boasted of budget surpluses worth more than $3.4 billion during today’s state budget announcement, yet there is still no future plan to repair widespread understaffing issues at hospitals across the state.

Brett Holmes, General Secretary of the Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA), said although funding for upgrades to hospitals was a welcome addition in the budget, crucial funding for commensurate staffing needed to be prioritised.

“Staffing levels in our public hospitals need to increase at a faster rate if we’re to keep up with the growing demand on our health services. We’ve got unsustainable overtime and bed block at new regional hospitals and record increases in emergency department presentations to our public hospitals. In the first quarter of 2016, NSW emergency department presentations grew at a record rate of four per cent. Promises of additional funding for specialist nurses and midwives is always welcome, but the only way to ensure we have appropriate staffing to meet increasing patient demand is to introduce nurse to patient ratios, particularly in our emergency departments, pediatrics and critical care as well as enforced Birthrate Plus in our maternity services,” Mr Holmes said.

“The five per cent increase in health funding announced in this year’s budget will provide some support to our public hospitals but without the staff to deliver these services, patients are at a loss. We know that a ratio of one nurse for every three patients in our EDs would drastically improve emergency care and reduce waiting times, where attendances are projected to increase by 2.9 per cent (79,000) over the next year.

“We’re pleased the state government has stuck to its agreement to fund 900 additional nurses, doctors, allied health and hospital support staff over the next two years, however, with hospital presentations increasing at the rate they are and population projections showing NSW will grow by 100,500 people on average each year to 2031, we need to look at sustainable solutions like nurse to patient ratios that guarantee the people of NSW that there are staff available to meet patient demand.”

Mr Holmes said the Budget was conservative in its approach to hospital funding but welcomed additional funding for acute inpatient hospital services, mental health services and community based services.

The NSWNMA will continue to campaign for legally enforceable ratios to be introduced across NSW.

Download this media release: NSW budget in surplus yet hospital staffing still an issue

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