NSW budget miraculously finds money, federal black hole still hurts

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) has cautiously welcomed health outcomes and capital works projects outlined in the 2014-15 State Budget, but fears the shortfalls in Commonwealth health funding will continue to cut deep into the future.

General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Brett Holmes, said the NSW government had managed to magically absorb the initial cuts to public health and hospitals funding delivered by the Abbott Government only last month, at the expense of adequate growth funding for the State.

“We all know our ageing population is becoming more reliant on access to health services, prompting the need for more nurses and adequate nurse-to-patient ratios to provide safe patient care,” Mr Holmes said.

“Since coming to office, this Liberal-National state government has consistently rebuffed our calls for various funding priorities on behalf of nurses and midwives, citing overwhelming budget constraints,” Mr Holmes said.

“It is an amazing dichotomy that we’ve been told ‘the bucket is empty’ over recent years, yet the government has managed to redistribute enough funds in this Budget to offset millions of dollars in health funding cuts by the Commonwealth.

“Our members are right to be sceptical of the government’s timing to locate this funding and temporarily patch up the Commonwealth’s health funding black hole, given we are just nine months out from the next state election.

“NSW public servants are obviously making a very significant contribution to the budget bottom line, thanks to this government providing pay outcomes for nurses and other public sector workers at a rate less than inflation.”

The NSWNMA said it was prepared to acknowledge, however, that the NSW Ministry of Health had adhered to its final funding commitment to direct more nursing specialists into the community.

115 new clinical nurse educators, clinical nurse specialists, clinical midwifery educators and clinical midwife specialists will be located throughout Local Health Districts and Specialty Health Networks – bringing a total of 275 positions which resulted from a NSWNMA proposal.

Assistant General Secretary of NSWNMA, Judith Kiejda, said the additional $1.3 billion capital works, including the redevelopment of John Hunter Children’s Hospital paediatric and neonatal intensive care units, was also welcomed, however the government had again failed to improve staffing within the units.

“This government appears very happy to build or upgrade these vital facilities but it is not prepared to commit to mandated staffing and ensure safe patient care inside them,” Ms Kiejda said.

“The government has also confirmed that it is expecting a 3 per cent increase in emergency department presentations – even without the introduction of the Federal government’s co-payment – yet there is still no commitment for nurse-to-patient ratios in EDs.

“We are disappointed Health Minister Jillian Skinner has not delivered on her promise to put patients first.

“The best way for the Minister to deliver on her commitment is to implement statewide nurse-to-patient ratios in public health facilities and specialty units, such as emergency departments.”

The NSWNMA said it would continue to campaign on behalf of its members for legally enforceable ratios to be introduced across NSW.

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