The Goulburn branch of the NSW Nurses and Midwives continued its campaign on nurse to patient ratios with a community rally in Victoria Park on Tuesday.
Between 30 and 40 people turned up to the event, including union members and representatives of local community organisations. The latter were invited to sign the pledge in support of mandated ratios. The Association is pushing for one nurse to every three patients in emergency and a one to four ratio in medical and surgical wards.
Branch president Kate O’Neill told the Post the Association also backed nurse to patient ratios in aged care facilities. The federal government has announced a Royal Commission into the sector.
She said the union was attracting strong support from the community. Yesterday, Middle Arm Progress Association, Australian Paramedics Association, Goulburn Soroptimists and Goulburn Legacy were among those that signed the pledge.
Speakers included Public Service Association rep Owen O’Neill, (Mrs O’Neill’s husband), Arthur Rorris from NSW Unions and Labor candidate for Goulburn, Ursula Stephens.
Mr O’Neill told the crowd it was important that the Association and community united on the issue.
“Health and illness is the greatest levelling factor of all of us,” he said.
“Accidents, disease and ravages of ageing have no stake in your postcode or income bracket. If you’re sick, you’re sick and if you need care, you need care – it’s as simple as that. Where you live shouldn’t determine the level of care you receive. Where you live also shouldn’t determine your workload or responsibilities when you’re the provider of that care either.”
Mr O’Neill said nurses deserved respect and admiration and the ability to leave shifts knowing the ward was in safe hands.
“They deserve respite from the long hours of emotionally draining situations they confront,” he said.
Mr O’Neill called on the crowd to make the ratios a focus and to never forget that ultimately it was “a matter of life and death.”
Mr Rorris told the Post the timing was important, given the Royal Commission announcement.
“The principle at stake is ratios. It doesn’t take Einstein to work out that if there are issues in aged care facilities, it surely to God is an issue for hospitals,” he said.
Mr Rorris said the Royal Commission also signalled a “sea change” and that the campaign for ratios in the public sector had been a driver.
“Hospitals will be the next cab off the rank and it will be very difficult politically for governments to stand up and say ‘we don’t need them.’”
Dr Stephens pointed out that Labor had committed to the requested ratios twice during Opposition leader Luke Foley’s visits to Goulburn.
“NSW Health at the moment has maximum ratios but in fact it is a minimum standard of care...If (mandated ratios) are good enough for Queensland, Victoria, Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, then certainly they are good enough for Goulburn,” she said.
Dr Stephens described the $120m Goulburn Base Hospital redevelopment as “disappointing,” saying the government should have committed to a greenfield site that was not constrained like the current location.
She said with Goulburn projected to grow to 40,000 people by 2050, she didn’t believe the redeveloped hospital “would step up to the need.”
Local resident Marilyn Manfred was one of those who attended the rally.
“If you’re ever in hospital, you know the effort and empathy nurses put in. Goulburn nurses are amazing,” she said.
“There definitely should be (mandated) ratios, otherwise they will all crack under the pressure of what they do at the moment.”
The Association says it will continue the campaign right up until the March State election and beyond, if necessary.