Our community campaigns pay dividends

According to documents leaked to the opposition the state government has earmarked $150 million in funding cuts to LHD budgets this financial year. This will inevitably put more pressure on staffing. 

 Here is a delicious challenge for those of you who love brain teasers.

How do you inject an extra 5000 nurses and midwives into the public health system over the next four years – as the state government promised at the state election early this year – and at the same time cut LHD budgets by $150 million a year?

The Berejiklian government’s apparent solution is the health equivalent of the magic pudding. You can have your cake and eat it too.

Norman Lindsay’s children’s classic has often been used as a metaphor for ridiculous political promises and wishful thinking. It is the perfect metaphor for NSW health policy.

When you demand $150 million in cost savings from the state’s 15 Local Health Districts and three Specialty Health Networks, clearly, it will spill into current staffing vacancies as well as cuts 
to frontline staff.

We have been seeing the conse-quences of these cuts for some time.

Months ago we were told Hunter New England Health had to find widespread savings, when we raised issues of understaffing concerns.

We were also told Western NSW Local Health District had to find positions it could cut. At the same time Central Coast Local Health District has been targeting nursing positions under a radical ‘staffing our service’ plan.

When we asked questions of NSW Health directly, we were given the normal mantra: there had been a 4.5 per cent increase in the state’s health budget and record health investment. We were assured that the Agency “Efficiency Dividends” or “Treasury Cap” would be managed by procurement efficiencies. It now appears to our members that LHD’s consider non-replacement of staff a procurement efficiency. We were then asked: “Why couldn’t we just be happy with 5,000 extra nurses and midwives over the next four years?”

A self-delusional mindset

As nurses and midwives we cannot afford to share the government’s self-delusional mindset. We need to make them accountable for their election promise to significantly increase the nursing and midwifery workforce. We owe that to our patients as well as ourselves.

Those extra nurses and midwives are needed now and we are not going to get them unless we keep this government honest.

This requires us to take a stand and to get the community behind us.

The good news is, that is happen-ing now and it is paying dividends.

Throughout the state NSWNMA branches are mobilising when inadequate staffing has impacted on safe patient care and the welfare of our patients.

They have engaged with the community and educated them about what is really happening at the frontline of our health system. They have won the community’s support and this has led to favourable outcomes.

In this month’s Lamp we report on how committed groups of nurses at rural hospitals like Leeton and Cooma have forced management to fulfil their responsibilities and find extra staff.

Likewise, at a larger metropolitan hospital like Bankstown nurses and midwives have achieved similar results.

For months now The Lamp has reported similar battles and similar wins.

These wins don’t come easy. They require some heavy lifting. Data needs to be collected, analyses need to be made, workplaces need to be organised, the community needs to be engaged. Management needs to be challenged.

The leadership and staff of this union are always here to provide assistance and backup 
to branches who are fighting to improve their workplace.

When the government says, on the one hand they recognise the need for more frontline nurses and on the other they take to LHD budgets with a scalpel, it is an insult to our intelligence and the intelligence of the public.

Someone needs to call out this fantasy. Let’s keep taking the truth to the public about the true state of our health system. The community has shown they will back us.