Nurses and midwives to strike again, seeking staffing ratios

Nurses and midwives plan to walk of the job for 24-hours next Thursday (31 March) after the NSW government failed to address the ongoing staffing crisis inside public hospitals, or commit to further talks on workplace improvements, since an initial strike almost six weeks ago.

A majority of NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) public sector branches this week voted in favour of a second statewide strike or work bans, and will hold public rallies to highlight the ongoing short staffing, workloads and patient safety concerns.

NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said nurses and midwives were deeply distressed by the government’s refusal to acknowledge the public health system crisis.

“In the past five weeks there have been multiple ‘code yellow’ incidents across the state, which signals an internal staffing emergency inside a health facility. These are becoming more frequent across metropolitan and regional sites because of the staffing issues,” said Mr Holmes.

“We’ve had ongoing reports of nurses and midwives working double shifts and increased amounts of overtime, gaps in staffing rosters going unfilled for weeks, vacant positions being left unfilled for months, as well as daily text messages begging staff to pick up extra shifts.

“Our members are scathing of the government’s unwillingness to continue an open dialogue with us about their claim for shift by shift nurse-to-patient ratios, improved maternity staffing and a modest pay rise.”

The NSWNMA has had no offer from the government since meeting with the NSW Premier on 21 February.

NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Shaye Candish, said unless the government agreed to a meaningful dialogue on safe staffing ratios and recognised how much Queensland and Victoria had benefited since introducing ratios, more staff would continue to leave NSW.

“This is a problem of the government’s own making. We’ve now got a situation where more and more experienced nurses and midwives are choosing to retire early, scaling back availability for shift work or leaving the profession all together,” said Ms Candish.

“During their statewide strike last month, members described exactly what it’s like working in our health system, and not because of the pandemic’s upheaval, but how the situation has deteriorated further.

“The government cannot keep its head in the sand and ignore the serious issues raised by its clinical nursing and midwifery workforce – the staff who are obligated to speak up when professional standards aren’t met, and patient safety is compromised.”

During the strike action next Thursday, life-preserving services will be maintained in all public hospitals and health services (a list of participating branches and locations is available here).

This afternoon, the NSWNMA reappeared in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) for a dispute filed by the Ministry of Health. At the Ministry’s request, the IRC has made new orders against the NSWNMA.

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