Report shows urgent need for ED staffing ratios

Improving staffing levels in emergency departments (EDs) and rebuilding the public health system must remain key priorities for the NSW government as hospital activity continues to surge.

According to the Bureau of Health Information (BHI), staff experienced the busiest ever January to March quarter, with 770,089 patients attending ED for treatment. A record high number were critically unwell triage category 1 (resuscitation) and triage category 2 (emergency) patients.

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) General Secretary, Shaye Candish, said the latest Healthcare Quarterly data highlighted the extraordinary pressures staff faced trying to deliver vital care, while 63,282 patients left an ED without or before completing treatment.

“It’s widely known ED patients have increasingly had to wait longer for treatment, which remains an ongoing concern. These figures also show one in 10 of the 181,218 admitted patients were stuck in EDs for over 20 hours,” said Ms Candish.

“The urgent need for safe staffing ratios of one nurse to three patients in our EDs is paramount given the most serious triage categories (1 and 2) are again on the rise.

“The NSW government must improve these sobering performance figures by expediting plans to have the right number of skilled emergency nurses on every shift to deliver the necessary care.

“Our members have shouldered an understaffing burden for too long and they are acutely aware of the toll it’s taken, not just in EDs but also on ambulance services and the wider health system.”

NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Michael Whaites, said while Safe Staffing Level implementation talks with the government had commenced, members were keen to see their working conditions improve.

“We are taking every opportunity to raise our members concerns with the NSW government to deliver reforms to strengthen the state’s nursing and midwifery workforce,” said Mr Whaites.

“With longer hospital stays recorded, and close to 97,000 patients still on the elective surgery waiting list at the end of March, there’s plenty of reform needed.

“Key to this will be introducing transparent and enforceable safe staffing ratios. We will see this through the delivery of the government’s commitment to our members and the people of NSW.

“We’re not convinced the government’s 4 per cent pay offer plus super will be enough to attract and retain nurses and midwives in NSW. This BHI data shows their hard work and the difficult circumstances under which they do it, they deserve a pay rise that acknowledges this.”

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