Ratios put patient safety first

Editorialmar2012February 2013

The focus of our Public Health System 2013 award claim is to improve and extend the nursing hours/ratios system.

2013 will be a year full of challenges and opportunities for nurses and midwives in New South Wales.

Opportunities will come with the renewal of our Public Health System Award. The centrepiece of our recommended claim for a new award will be the improvement and extension of ratios delivered via minimum nursing hours (NH).

Ratios remain at the heart of our campaigns for a very good reason: ratios put patient safety first.

High in our priorities will be the extension of NH/ratios into specialty areas such as community nursing and paediatrics, which missed out in the last award campaign. We will also be making it a priority to improve ratios in country hospitals.

No doubt many of you will have seen the latest Association TV ads, now on air. They are the first step in educating the public about our plan to further improve patient care in our public health system.

Our 2013 claim is the culmination of many months of consultation with members through surveys, branch meetings, discussion groups and quantitative and qualitative research.

Winning ratios in our last campaign was a great triumph for patient care and public hospitals. Since then, the government, to its credit, has fulfilled its commitment to deliver the 1400 extra nurses required to fill the ratios.

However, this is not enough. Country and community nurses are struggling to keep their patients safe and are falling behind city hospitals. In areas like paediatrics and neonatal intensive care there is an urgent need to guarantee nurse numbers.

Our members working in these areas have been clear that they too need ratios or, in the case of community nurses, an equivalent mechanism to deliver mandated face-to-face nursing hours. There are several resolutions from annual conference that call on the Association to campaign for these improvements.

The big challenge will be to convince the O’Farrell Government that it needs to commit resources to make these improvements.

The state government must improve and expand minimum, mandated ratios for all nurses in the public health system. Nurse-to-patient ratios must be improved in all regions of NSW.

The Association is aware of budget and recruitment issues, particularly in regional and rural areas. We urge the NSW government to redirect it’s $2.3 billion in “back office” savings to frontline services and better patient care.

Our TV campaign will do a lot to alert the public about the issues in our public health system, and to enlist their support for our campaign. But that won’t be enough on its own.To win will require all nurses and midwives to stand united as never before.

To win will require the active participation of the whole membership in the campaign.

This campaign will not be easy. We have already seen nurses made redundant in NSW and Queensland and there has been a relentless attack on public services since the election of the O’Farrell Government.

But we can win. Time and time again NSW nurses and midwives have shown the courage, commitment and resilience to fight for a better public health system, leading to better and safer patient care.

We’ve done it before and we can do it again.

I would like to thank the nurses who participated in our TV ads, in particular Mimi Chu, Emily Orchard and Katrina Lee, as well as mother Danielle Griffiths, who features in our ad about neonatal intensive care units.

They all did a fantastic job in articulating the challenges facing us in these nursing areas and in advocating for achievable solutions that will improve patient care.