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Latest News - July 2013

July 2, 2013
Nurses vent anger at Shellharbour protest
Source: Illawarra Mercury
By: Lisa Wachsmuth

Nurses and midwives from Shellharbour Hospital "saw red" yesterday as part of a statewide protest over what they claim is the NSW government's failure to provide safe nurse-to-patient ratios.

NSW Nurses and Midwives Association regional organiser Mark Murphy said the union was in negotiations with the state government to finalise a new nurses and midwives award, to replace the 2010-11 award that expired on June 30. A key feature of the 2013 claim was to extend the nurse-to-patient ratios in place at metropolitan hospitals to hospitals in regional and rural settings. It also included two 2.5-per-cent-per-year pay rises by July 2014.

"Nurses wore red [yesterday] across the state as a display of anger towards the NSW government for not listening to our claim for safer patient care through the expansion of ratios across the state," Mr Murphy said.

"Currently in NSW, the ratios are one to four - one nurse to four patients - in medical and surgical wards in Peer Group A hospitals.

"The majority of these are in the Sydney metropolitan area, although Wollongong Hospital is an exception in the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.

"We want the government to expand the ratios into all hospitals across the state."

Mr Murphy said as a Peer Group C hospital, the ratio for Shellharbour was one nurse to five patients.

"That means there's a massive difference between regional and metropolitan hospitals in the level of care that can be provided," he said. "It doesn't make sense - patients are just as sick at Shellharbour as they are at Prince of Wales or Westmead."

Shellharbour branch president of the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association, Karin Tilden, said ratios could mean the difference between life and death.

"If you're working in emergency, for instance, and you have five or six patients to look after, you can't see everything that's happening at once," she said.

"Often it's the quiet patient in the corner, or the elderly patient you think is asleep, that really needs attention but you don't have the time to look after them properly.

"The danger is that you miss things, and patients like these could in fact be slipping into a coma."

A spokesperson for the NSW Ministry of Health said staffing levels were determined by "clinical and specific patient needs".

"The Nurses' Association is demanding a one-size-fits-all industrial approach," the spokesperson said.

"Nurse numbers in many NSW hospitals [both regional and metropolitan] are governed by a staffing method known as nursing hours per patient day.

"... Beyond this specific framework, nursing management makes an assessment of staffing requirements based on a range of factors including patient safety, clinical needs, professional judgment, previous experience and safe systems of work."




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