Nurses and midwives vow to have their voices heard

Hundreds of nurses and midwives from across NSW have held robust discussions in Sydney this week on workloads issues, restricted wages negotiations, impacts of health funding cuts, eliminating family violence and speaking out against the Border Force Act 2015.

A recurring theme throughout the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association’s (NSWNMA) 70th Annual Conference was empowering nurses and midwives to exercise their workplace rights and to look beyond the ‘unsustainable’ health outlook being purported by governments.

General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Brett Holmes, said more than 410 nursing and midwifery delegates who attended the Conference at Rosehill Gardens were fed up with being expected to do more with less and constantly being told that health funding cuts meant more ‘streamlining’.

“Our members are extremely proud of the contribution they make to their local communities by delivering safe patient care across the health and ageing sectors and also advocating on behalf of those unable to speak up for themselves,” Mr Holmes said.

“This was evident in a resolution unanimously passed by the Conference floor regarding the federal government’s Border Force Act, which our members believe impedes their duty of care obligations and effectively gags them from speaking about the conditions in detention centres.”

Assistant General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Judith Kiejda, said the landscape in the health and ageing sector was rapidly changing and meant nurses and midwives would need to change how they addressed issues, such as workloads disputes and bargaining.

“Our union represents two of the most respected professions in this country – nursing and midwifery – yet our governments are making it increasingly difficult to negotiate, ironically what we want most is focused on safe patient care and governments don’t like hearing us,” Ms Kiejda said.

“Nurses and midwives have a passion for making sure their professional status is protected by having the right number of staff to meet patient care safely. They deserve the professional courtesy to raise concerns and contribute to policy decisions and it’s about time governments started listening.”

During the Conference, delegates called on Acting Health Minister, Pru Goward, to recognise the adverse impact of increased privatisations in health and called for mandated nurse-to-patient ratios across NSW to improve safe patient care.

Despite welcoming a recommitment of 2,100 extra nurses and midwives and 360 specialist positions over the next four years, delegates were adamant they would continue to lobby the state government for better health outcomes for patients.

Delegates also agreed to maintain pressure on all political parties in the lead up to the next federal election. The delegates committed to campaigning on six key issues: workers’ rights including penalty rates; universal health care through Medicare; high quality education for all Australians; retention of public services; a secure and decent retirement; and a country where there is a fair go for all, where everyone contributes their fair share of tax.

Federal Shadow Health Minister, Catherine King, acknowledged that health would be a major differential in the next federal election.

Ms King also raised concerns during the Conference that there had been too many cuts to public hospital funding and that the onus was falling on nurses and midwives to cope with the magnitude of those cuts.

Celebrating 70 years: still putting patient safety first throughout the three-day Conference, the NSWNMA delegates committed to continuing their advocacy for safe patient care and an accessible universal health care system.

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