The campaign for improved ratios begins


Yesterday, on a beautiful sunny day outside Parliament House, the NSWNMA launched its campaign to embed and extend ratios for all nurses and patients across the state. Brett Holmes spoke to a gathering of delegates that was colourful and enthusiastic. Here’s Brett’s speech.

First, on behalf of your Association and on behalf of all your colleagues from across the state who couldn’t be here today, I want to thank you all for being here. NSW nurses and midwives are here, Mr O’Farrell!

We’re here to make a big noise and those who aren’t here are with us in spirit – in their tens of thousands.

We know this for certain. How do we know? For those of you who missed the result of the ballot to support this award campaign as recommended by the Association, I’d like to read it out again. In fact, I quite enjoy reading it out.

Branches voting in favour of pursuing the campaign for improved nurse to patient ratios in all NSW hospitals: 214.

Branches voting against: one.

Make no mistake, this is a record vote for our branches to endorse a claim and this campaign.

This overwhelming support fires our determination, because it proves NSW nurses and midwives demand one thing above all else – safe patient care.

And we know that nurse to patient ratios delivered by mandated minimum nursing hours, maximum face-to-face hours for community nurses and BirthRate Plus enshrined in our legally enforceable award is the only way to deliver safe patient care!

Brett addressing the rally.

And why is that so universal? Virtually unanimous? For exactly the same reason most of us took on nursing or midwifery as our profession in the first place. It’s because we put patient safety and the care of our patients above all else. It’s what we signed up for and it’s what we judge ourselves against. How well did we care for the patients on our wards this week?

And we know you can’t do it properly when there are not enough nurses or midwives for the patients in your care – when you run all shift from one to another to another – people waiting for pain relief, medication, help to change position, a bedpan … people in distress, who don’t understand why you’ve taken so long to get to them. And let’s not forget our community patients waiting for care in their own homes or in crowded community health centres.

It’s intolerable. Intolerable for them and intolerable for us. And we won’t tolerate it any more.

Those people are waiting too long because the Government has been told it is okay to have a regime where some wards in some hospitals have improved nurse to patient ratios while the rest do not.

We are here to tell the Government it is not okay.

A two-tier system where nurses are supported and staffed to provide first-rate care in some hospitals, mainly cities, while their colleagues in others, mainly country, are not, is unacceptable.

Nurses in those country hospitals simply cannot physically provide the same level of care to patients with the same illness as their city colleagues.

And it makes them despair. And it makes them want to leave. It makes far too many of them turn their backs on nursing – on their chosen vocation. Because they can’t bear being unable to provide care to a standard Australians are entitled to expect.

Colleagues, I’ve always been proud to be a nurse and proud to work for your Association fighting for a better deal for nurses, fighting to protect your rights and conditions at work.

But I’ve never been prouder than these past weeks. When the Government threw its paltry 2.5 percent pay offer on the table [in 2012], other public sector workers told them what to do with it and went to the High Court against it. And it’s very easy to understand why.

But what did our members, the nurses and midwives in our public health system do? They said, ‘We need money the same as everyone else to pay our bills and take care of our families. But there’s something much more important to us’.

And that something is, we simply must have enough of us to give all NSW patients, in all wards, in all NSW hospitals, the same world-class care they now get in just some hospitals.

Give us that. Enough nurses to do our jobs in hospitals and in the community and fulfill our vocation of caring for our sick and injured fellow citizens. Give us that and give it to us in writing – guaranteed. That is what we ask. That is what we demand.

That’s why I’m so proud of NSW nurses and midwives today, both those here and those colleagues who have to be at the bedside today. And that’s why we cannot give up this fight, this campaign, till we have won that care for everyone in NSW.

I now invite you to bring forward your letters that you have written to the Premier, the Honourable Barry O’Farrell, and put them in the letter box so that our postman Pete can make sure they get delivered on your behalf!


  1. What a fantastic day in CBD @ NSW State ‘Parli-House’. Well run/organised and order maintained by all nurses, officials to boot :)!
    I reconnected with past mates; NSWNMA made our message loud and clear. Police attended and like all great union members, enjoyed the sunshine. B O’F never showed his face. Shame Barry shame!

    Mt Druit is about to lose its Cardiac unit. The MUM I called was never told. ‘Relocation to Blacktown, no bed closures’. Wrong Barry wrong….’
    ‘Where was Minister for Health Skinner?” Not to be seen …disgusting when ‘we nurses make the system work’ – that is a fact of life mates!

    Brett was amazing, as were all of us. Met some new nurses. A great positive event and highly justified campaign to make known to all of NSW. I was so proud to be there supporting nurses who care.

  2. Ratios must be protected and maintained. The “nursing hours per patient per day” system is too vulnerable to corruption by unscrupulous managers and finance people.

  3. What a great day, well organised, great comradery shown by NSWNMA members. We must fight for the protection of ratios that are already in existence and extend them to regional, rural and community areas of health. When we achieve this the patients of NSW will get good safe patient care in whatever setting.


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