Statewide nurses strike media kit

NSWNMA members at more than 180 NSW public hospitals and community health services will strike, or take other protest action, for various periods tomorrow, Wednesday 24 July, to protest against the O’Farrell Government’s failure to provide guaranteed, safe nurse staffing levels in all public hospitals, public hospital clinical units and community health services and equal ratios in all hospitals around the State.

See full list [Download document below] of NSWNMA workplace branches that have notified the NSWNMA office of their intention to strike or take some other form of protest action. For the convenience of regional media outlets it is sorted by Local Health District.

During tomorrow’s strike life-preserving services will be maintained in all hospitals and community health services. Striking nurses and midwives will attend a special general meeting of the NSWNMA at Homebush.

Special buses have been put on from the Hunter, Central Coast and the Illawarra to bring nurses and midwives to Sydney. Many Sydney branches will be boarding trains as groups for the Homebush meeting. Local media outlets are welcome to cover the bus and train departures, which are on pages four and five of this media kit.

NSWNMA strike and special general meeting details

Strike date: Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Meeting time: 11.30am – 1.00pm

Meeting venue Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre

Cnr Sarah Durack Ave and Olympic Blvd, Sydney Olympic Park

With live webcast to the following 17 regional centres:

Albury, Broken Hill, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Goulburn, Grafton, Griffith, Kempsey, Lismore, Merimbula, Nowra, Orange, Port Macquarie, Queanbeyan, Tamworth, Tweed Heads, Wagga Wagga (Full venue location details, and a NSWNMA venue contacts list, are attached.)


  1. Coral Levett, NSWNMA president, will start the meeting and introduce the first speaker.
  2. Brett Holmes, NSWNMA general secretary, will outline the objectives of the Ratios put patient safety first campaign and the importance of ratios to safe patient care in our public hospitals and community health services.
  3. Mark Lennon, Unions NSW secretary, will discuss the O’Farrell Government’s attacks on public sector workers and public services.
  4. Deb Smith, NSWNMA councillor, will highlight the need for ratios in country hospitals.
  5. Emma Clarke, ED nurse from Westmead, will talk about the need for ratios in metro EDs.
  6. Adrian King, RN from Muswellbrook District Hospital, will discuss how community/political campaigning has really activated country members.
  7. Gwen Green, hospital patient who will share her experience in Grafton hospital and the need for more nurses.
  8. General business.
  9. Judith Kiejda, NSWNMA assistant secretary, who will discuss the campaign’s future.

Issue comment and staffing ratios summary

NSWNMA general secretary, Brett Holmes, said the first round of enforceable, minimum nurse-to-patient ratios were introduced into general medical and surgical wards in most NSW hospitals as part of the 2010-11 award negotiated between the NSWNMA and former Labor government.

“In this second round the NSWNMA wants the O’Farrell Government to build on this landmark staffing reform by extending the ratios or guaranteed minimum staffing to more clinical units, including emergency departments, children’s wards, intensive care units, community health services and smaller hospitals. We also want all hospitals to be treated equally, so that the nurse-to-patient ratios are the same in each hospital around the State.

“That means, in summary, minimum legally-enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios such as:

  • one nurse to four patients, or a minimum average of six nursing hours per patient per day, in all general medical, surgical and acute inpatient mental health wards in every hospital throughout the State, including all country hospitals;
  • one nurse per three children in general children’s wards – about 8.5 hours per child per day.
  • one nurse to three patients in emergency departments;
  • one nurse per patient in intensive care units, including neo-natal ICUs; and
  • a maximum of four hours patient contact time per nurse/midwife eight-hour shift in community health services, including most community mental health services.

Unsafe staffing examples

“Here are some real everyday examples, which I will raise at tomorrow’s special general meeting, of why this staffing reform is so essential:

“Annette, from Shoalhaven, told us just last week that in their emergency department, in a large regional hospital, children in the paediatrics bay have to go unattended if a resuscitation patient comes in because there aren’t enough nurses to look after them.

“Just last Saturday two nurses turned up to look after seventeen children at Campbelltown Hospital. They eventually got a third nurse to give them a ratio of one for more than five children.

“Or what about Michelle, from a surgical ward, who told us that because of the isolation of country towns, there are hardly any casuals to fall back on. If someone rings in sick, then you’re out of luck. The manager says ‘you’ll just have to make do’.

“Then there’s our tenacious Cobar branch? They’ve had a two year fight to get an escalation plan at their hospital so they could get enough staff to respond to the road, mine or farm accidents that are inevitable, but unpredictable in their timing. Why? Because the Ministry of Health believes that if you live in the bush or you drive on our country roads then you have knowingly rolled the dice and should expect to die, or have a lower level of nursing, because there are simply not enough staff to care for you prior to medical retrieval. Ironically, the Minister, Ms Skinner, recently announced that retrieval services will have doctors on board because the patients are so sick. If they are so sick why won’t her government guarantee enough nurses at the initiating hospital?

Evidence, cost, etc

“The ratios we are seeking will, at a reasonable and affordable cost, bring a greater level of stability and reliability to such situations and improve patient experiences and outcomes across the public health system. The O’Farrell Government knows that local and international nursing research shows protecting safe nursing numbers and the RN/RM skill mix delivers better patient outcomes and reduces adverse events, which saves lives and money.

“The recent State budget confirms the State Government can afford to do this, especially as it is a priority for our society and the health system. For a few hundred million dollars a year the State Government can dramatically improve patient care in our public hospitals and community health services through this transformative policy of better matching nursing levels to patient levels. The collateral savings in other areas and the benefits to society will be significant.

“The preliminary evidence from the first round of ratios, or minimum enforceable nursing hours per patient day, confirms they have significantly eased the burden and risk in the areas that have benefited,” Mr Holmes said.

The statewide Ratios put patient safety first campaign was launched in Sydney on Tuesday, 19 March. A record 214 NSWNMA branches, representing more than 36,000 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.

Statewide strike media kit

Join over 77,000 nurses and midwives in NSW by becoming a valued member today.

You’ll automatically become a member of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation