NSWNMA members at Port Macquarie Base Hospital and nearby community health services today launched their local campaign for a new Public Health System Nurses & Midwives (State) Award, which challenges the O’Farrell Government to build on the safer hospital staffing levels introduced in 2011 under an agreement between the NSWNMA and previous Labor government.
The statewide ‘Ratios put patient safety first’ campaign was launched in Sydney on Tuesday, 19 March. Local launches, similar to today’s launch in Port Macquarie, are being held around the state. Launches have already been held at Katoomba-Blue Mountains, Muswellbrook-Upper Hunter, Tamworth, Bathurst, Goulburn, Nowra, Grafton, Kempsey, Maitland, Wagga Wagga, Gilgandra, Royal Prince Alfred, Ryde, Coffs Harbour, Belmont, Mount Druitt, Blacktown and Queanbeyan.
Community support for safer, properly-regulated nurse and midwife staffing levels is growing rapidly. This strong community support reflects the record number of NSWNMA branches that voted to endorse the union’s 2013 staffing ratios and wages claim for this new award.
A record 214 NSWNMA branches, representing more than 30,000 public-sector nurses and midwives throughout NSW, have endorsed the NSWNMA’s ratios and wages claim, which was then formally presented to the State Government, through the Health Ministry, on March 11.
The NSWNMA’s Port Macquarie Base Hospital branch and other mid north coast branches were amongst the 214 branches that endorsed the 2013 claim. The current Public Health System Nurses & Midwives (State) Award expires on June 30 this year.
A key feature of the 2013 claim is guaranteed, safer nursing levels for seriously ill children, emergency departments, high dependency units and rural hospitals and multipurpose services, and safer nursing and midwifery staffing arrangements in community health services.
The claim also includes two 2.5 per cent per year payrises, which will provide the majority of experienced, full-time nurses and midwives with a payrise of more than $70.00 per week, or more than $3800.00 per year, by July 2014.
NSWNMA general secretary, Brett Holmes, said nurses and midwives working under the first round of compulsory, minimum ratios are clear they have provided a safer clinical and less stressed working environment.
“The challenge for the O’Farrell Government is to build on this and ensure every public patient in NSW, including in regional areas such as Port Macquarie, has access to the same level of safer care.
“There is no doubt mandated minimum staffing arrangements protect safe staffing levels. Staffing levels can be assessed against a mandated minimum requirement, which means we can act decisively when governments and hospital managers try to undermine safe staffing just to save a bit of money.
“That is why we must get mandated minimum staffing arrangements extended to seriously ill children, emergency departments, high dependency units, rural hospitals, multipurpose services and community health services.
“The rapidly growing level of support, for the Ratios put patient safety first campaign, from other unions, professions, trades and local community leaders confirms the importance of safe, high quality and free public hospital and community health services to every Australian. The people of Port Macquarie and the mid north coast are as entitled to safer nursing and midwifery services as patients in the State’s largest hospitals in Sydney.
“The O’Farrell Government is very willing to take credit every time a new batch of nurses or midwives is employed to fill the new positions created by the first round of ratios, which were actually agreed between the NSWNMA and previous Labor government.
“It will be interesting to see how it reacts now that it has a chance to act in its own right and extend this reform into other important areas such as children’s wards, emergency departments, high dependency units, rural facilities and community health services. Hopefully it will heed the strong message being sent by the State’s nurses and midwives and do the right thing, without the need for an extended campaign,” Mr Holmes said.