Respect nurses and midwives

The state government has responded to our public health system log of claims and on the big staffing issues they have nothing to say.

We are often told we are living in a dynamic world of constant change which requires adaptability and nimbleness to meet contemporary challenges.

These are qualities that the NSW government seems to lack – at least when it comes to health.

As The Lamp goes to print we have just received an offer from the government in response to our log of claims for the NSW public health system.

As they have done over the last six years the government has ignored a carefully crafted document, put together after months of consultation with the many members we have in the public health system who, every day and night and weekend, hold together our public hospitals and health services the length and breadth of the state.

These hardworking, dedicated nurses and midwives have an instinctive feel for the issues, challenges and shortcomings of public health from their daily experiences at the frontline of the system.

Our log of claims is a distillation of their collective analysis of what needs to be done to improve the system so that the people of NSW can continue to get the world-class care they deserve.

The government’s disappointing response is to ignore the informed voices of nurses and midwives and to offer a 2.5 per cent pay increase without any consideration of the critical issues facing health that we have put before them.

Heading the list of those issues is ratios. Effectively there has been no significant improvement to ratios since 2011 when we achieved ratios after a hard-fought campaign. The government tells us there are more nurses but our members are constantly telling us they are run off their feet – all over the state.

There is overwhelming evidence that ratios work. Over the years we have documented in The Lamp, and we have presented to the government, the mountain of international evidence that shows lives are saved when hospitals employ more nurses.

Ratios, specialling and rosters need to be addressed

Of course, there are many other issues besides ratios that need to be resolved. In this issue of The Lamp we highlight two that our members tell us are of critical importance – specialling (see pp 12-13) and rosters.

A survey conducted by the NSWNMA showed the heavy burden specials put on our wards. Almost half the nurses surveyed said no extra staff were provided to look after these patients who require one-on-one care. And when staff were provided they tended to be AiNs.

A second survey showed widespread dissatisfaction with rosters and the lack of advance notice makes it very difficult for nurses and midwives to have normal lives.

An International Labour Organisation conference attended by our Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda showcased a different way that governments, unions and employers can work together to improve health systems than what we have become accustomed to in New South Wales.

At this important United Nations meeting unions were recognised for their role in representing the global health workforce and their concerns listened to and acted upon.

All the parties – unions, govern-ments and employers agreed to two important positions:

• Public spending on the health workforce should be seen as an investment and not a cost and

• Mandated staffing is the only way to guarantee decent working conditions in health services.

This government is not listening to nurses and midwives and they need to listen to the people who measure the pulse of our public health system every day.

They should show some respect to those who understand what needs to be done to improve its health.