Putting hospitals before stadiums

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association Goulburn Base Hospital branch president Kate O'Neill with Luke Foley. Photo: Supplied
NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association Goulburn Base Hospital branch president Kate O'Neill with Luke Foley. Photo: Supplied

NSW Labor leader Luke Foley was in Goulburn last Thursday promising to improve patient safety by introducing nurse-to-patient ratios in the region’s hospitals.

Labor candidate for Goulburn Dr Ursula Stephens and local nurses joined him at the front of Goulburn Base Hospital.

They have been calling on the Berejklian government to mandate that regional hospitals get the same nurse-to-patient ratios as city hospitals. 

Mr Foley said NSW Labor would introduce mandated staffing levels in regional hospitals, bringing them into line with Sydney hospitals.

The ratio commitment is 1:3 in emergency and paediatric wards and 1:4 in surgery and medical wards, determined on every shift.

This would bring an end to the midnight head count, which is currently used to determine staffing. 

“This will ensure better patient care and reduce under-staffing problems that have plagued the public health system under the Liberal government,” Mr Foley said. 

“This expansion adds to what we have already announced. Health care should not be postcode dependent.

“We will employ hundreds of nurses for city and country hospitals. Nurses are the bedrock of our hospitals.

“They make an extraordinary contribution, but they need a system where their work can be delivered more efficiently, and without adding additional stress to their crucial jobs.

“It’s shameful that the government allows hospitals to be understaffed while putting billions of dollars into Sydney stadiums.”

Mr Foley said nurses and midwives did extraordinary work, but were under severe pressure.

“They are overworked and under-resourced due to a lack of support from the Berejiklian government,” he said. 

Labor candidate for Goulburn Dr Ursula Stephens said Labor’s policy would employ hundreds more nurses in “B” and “C” group hospitals across NSW.

“This would improve patient care in about 60 hospitals, most of them outside Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle,” she said. 

She said studies had shown that higher nurse-to-patient ratios saved lives as there was a clear link between higher staff levels and improved outcomes for patients. 

“Nurse-to-patient ratios reduce errors, improve the amount of time each nurse can spend in patient care, create better workplaces, reduce stress and lead to higher retention of nurses and midwives,” she said.

“Labor is committed to supporting our hard-working nurses because we know they are an essential frontline service that our community depends on.”

She said NSW Labor’s full and detailed policy would be released closer to the March 2019 election and would be fully costed. 

Meanwhile, Member for Goulburn Pru Goward said she had also met with union members. 

“I have met with the union and members on several occasions. I fully understand their argument,” Ms Goward said.

“Since our meeting I have made representations on the matter to Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard. I am assured the Health Minister is considering the argument too.

“Lobbying on matters like this is my core business and I take it seriously.

“I understand there will be a cost to the health system. We would all like to know how Labor believes it is going to fund it without reducing services.”