Ratios a hot topic in NSW election campaign


The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association has welcomed an election commitment by NSW Labor to employ 840 additional nurses in emergency departments and paediatric wards and mandate nurse-to-patient ratios under new legislation.

General Secretary of the NSWNMA Brett Holmes said the commitment was evidence of the ongoing effort by nurses and midwives, who had campaigned tirelessly for expanded and improved legally-enforceable ratios over several years.

Pam Illingworth_Pushpa Prasad & Michael Kirby at St George Hospital

“Prior to the 2011 election, our members successfully campaigned for ratios to be introduced into selected wards as part of negotiations on their wages and working conditions Award, but their resolve has been to continue fighting for extended ratios. Finally there is now a considered and costed commitment being put forward that will assist in improving safe patient care and help to reduce waiting times in our already over-stretched emergency departments.

“We welcome NSW Labor’s promise to employ 735 full-time equivalent (FTE) extra nurses in emergency departments across Peer Group A, B and C hospitals, which would result in a ratio of one nurse to every three patients.

“This addresses our ‘1:3 in ED’ claim that the government to date has ignored and would also ensure a one-to-one ratio for patients in resuscitation beds, one-to-four ratio for Medical Assessment Units and would help alleviate some of the daily pressures faced by nurses.

“A further 105 FTE nurses being committed by NSW Labor to provide increased nursing hours per patient day in paediatric wards within Peer Group A, B and C hospitals would also deliver ratios of one-to-three and provide safer outcomes for young vulnerable patients,” said Mr Holmes.

ED ratios

Independent international research confirms nurse-to-patient ratios are an effective staffing model for safe patient care and increased nursing care leads to better health outcomes for patients.

According to US patient safety academic Professor Linda Aiken who spoke to Australian nurses in December, for every one patient added to a nurse’s workload there is a seven percent increase in mortality, following common surgical procedures.

“We cannot reiterate the importance of nurse-to-patient ratios enough”, said Mr Holmes. “Legally enforcing ratios in NSW will provide security to patients throughout the public health system and prevent future governments from undoing the hard-fought work of our members.”

Mr Holmes acknowledged the efforts of nurses from the state’s rural and regional hospitals and confirmed they would continue the fight for ratios across all public health facilities, regardless of their size.

group mus

“As advocates for better health outcomes on behalf of their patients, our members will continue to lobby all political parties to achieve improved ratios because they know it saves lives,” said Mr Holmes.

“Nurses and midwives across the state will be looking to the Liberal-Nationals to demonstrate a real commitment to better patient outcomes by matching or improving Labor’s promise.”

Ratios put patient safety first on Facebook

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  1. I work on a mixed coronary care/HDU unit in a private hospital that has several branches all over the country. Our DON recently posted a memo to all wards announcing that (I quote exactly): “There is no conclusive evidence that lower nurse-patient ratios improve patient safety or promote better outcomes”. The memo then went on to announce the introduction of her new Safe Staffing model. The crux of this model is that if the ward manager or the after hours manager thinks the staffing is safe, then it is. So, I work nights and the former staffing ratio for the HDU half of the ward was 2:15 (two nurses to 15 patients overnight). That’s gone by the board now, and I get 12 all to myself. That’s 12 high-dependency post-op surgical and high-care medical patients. The CCU half of the ward gets the balance on top of their 4 CCU patients each. This has been implemented since December and looks like it’s here to stay.


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