“We are 153 shifts short in February” – Three midwives speak out

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NSW maternity units are in crisis, with many facing mass shortages of midwifery staff, which is potentially putting babies and mothers at risk. Three midwives have spoken to Nurse Uncut to reveal the extent of this crisis.

As a new grad I was the in-charge/team leader for a 20 bed postnatal ward on three occasions. This is a very high acuity ward with a disproportionate number of women who had Caesarean sections, late preterm bubs, and of course feeding issues. During some of those months, we were so poorly staffed – in fact, over 50% of shifts were understaffed. I worked shifts where I was in charge (as I said, I was a new grad) and looking after 10 women and 10 babies at a time. The other midwife on with me had also been qualified less than two years and had the same patient load. For some reprieve, we were helped by Registered Nurses for medications and observations, but this did not make up for the lack of midwifery staff. Midwife, Sydney, NSW

“Over 50% of shifts were understaffed.”

I work on a 28 bed maternity ward. It can be fairly high acuity and we are usually between 80-100% full, so any shortfall in staff really affects us. We’ve just received our rosters for February, and we are 153 shifts short for the month. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THREE. There are a few shifts that actually have no one rostered on it, while some have only one person rostered on. Nearly all of the midwives on my ward are part timers, and we all pick up extra shifts and do overtime, but when you see a vacant shift that literally has zero staff allocated, you feel scared to put your name down in case no one else turns up. Midwife, Illawarra, NSW

“When you see a vacant shift that literally has zero staff allocated, you feel scared to put your name down”

The situation in maternity units is beyond appalling and it makes me both sad and angry. Our falling breastfeeding rate in NSW is a huge flashing light of a system that is broken. This government is failing women and babies of NSW and I’m beyond disappointed that neither the NSW Government or the Opposition has committed to midwives’ claim for Ratios in all maternity wards. Midwife, Northern Rivers, NSW

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