Goulburn will see more action over nurse to patient ratios, a union is vowing.
The local branch of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association voted on Wednesday to accept the State Government’s 2.5 per cent wage rise. But delegate Jane Cotter said members strongly opposed the current nurse to patient ratio for regional areas.
“Out argument is that Goulburn people deserve the same ratios as those in metropolitan hospitals. Our view on that has not changed in eight years,” she said.
“We are talking about bread and butter stuff like strokes and pneumonia, not the big cases.”
The Association says Campbelltown Hospital has one nurse to every four patients, equivalent to six nursing hours per patient per day. In contrast, Goulburn Base delivered five nursing hours per patient per day.
In Goulburn’s eight-bed emergency department, the Association is asking for one nurse to every three patients. Currently, the branch says one nurse cares for four or five patients.
Metropolitan hospitals also had a senior nurse on shifts to support junior nurses and to ensure smooth patient flow.
“There’s a lot of research now to show that higher nurse to patient ratios save lives,” Mrs Cotter said.
Branch president Kate O’Neill said nurses were feeling “burnt out and stretched” by current workloads.
The State Government announced 950 more nurses across NSW. But Mrs O’Neill said these were to meet future demand and would make no difference to Goulburn patients now.
The Association has however welcomed the Health District’s advertisements for temporary nurses over winter to deal with flu cases.
“Whether that converts to recruitment is another thing,” Mrs Cotter said.
“The palliative care practitioner’s position is vacant. It has been advertised three times but there haven’t been any applicants, so even with the best of intentions, it’s difficult.”
Southern NSW Health District chief executive Andrew Newton has previously spoken of the need for a coordinated effort with the council and Chamber of Commerce to promote Goulburn as an attractive place to live and work. This would help overcome recruitment challenges, he said.
Mr Newton has also committed to mandated nurse to patient ratios in the upgraded Goulburn Hospital. However the Nurses Association argues this merely means maintaining the status quo, which it sees as unacceptable.
The union also objects to what it says is the government’s averaging of nurse to patient hours across a week. Mrs Cotter said while Goulburn MP Pru Goward argued it gave flexibility, it ignored the fact that some days “nurses were run off their feet.”
“If we had one nurse to every four patients, it would be a lot easier,” she said.
Some 45 members attended Wednesday’s meeting, a turn-up Mrs Cotter said reflected the depth of feeling.
The branch also voted to join the Association’s statewide fight for “safer staffing levels.”
“So you will see some action,” she told The Post.