Public health system nurses and midwives are to be congratulated on their outstanding achievements – won after a hard-fought campaign, said NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes.
“What we’ve achieved is a major reform of staffing arrangements in public hospitals, which will significantly improve patient care and reduce nursing and midwifery workloads,” said Brett.
Following the vote by Branches, the association signed the agreement for the new public heath system award with NSW Health and formally ratified the award in the Industrial relations commission on 23 February.
NSW will now join Victoria and California with the power to enforce nurse-to-patient ratios.
Under NSWNA rules a Branch vote is weighted according to the number of delegates a Branch is entitled to. There are 240 Public Health System Branches. 207 submitted a valid vote. 186 voted yes, 21 voted no. When weighted according to entitled delegates it produced a 90% ‘yes’ vote.
Research demonstrates that the number and type of nurses providing care has a huge impact on patient safety and health outcomes. Over recent decades the quality of health care in NSW has been compromised by not only declining nursing numbers per patient, but also the declining proportion of care provided by Registered Nurses (ie. skill mix).
Few unions in the world, let alone Australia have been able to do anything effective about reversing this trend. The NSW Nurses’ association achievement in getting agreed standards concerning nurse-to-patient ratios is a major one. Having settled baseline standards for staffing in the form of ratios, the challenge now becomes enforcing those standards and improving the skill mix.
The provision in the award specifying that management replace missing or departing nurses on a ‘like for like basis’ is important. Equally the right of nurses in the award to demand ‘spot checks’ to ensure the new arrangements are honoured is critical. It is vital the campaign continues; the rights to preserve skill mix contained in the award need to be enforced and improved. Success on this matter will be vital for ensuring a healthy future for the nursing profession and the health care system in this State!
The Association will be sending members more information about the commencement of ratios as the details are agreed.
How do you feel about the campaign? Are you pleased with the success?