Inner West Independent

Balmain nurses walk out over staffing ratios

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) representatives alongside Darcy Byrne and Jamie Parker. Photo: Supplied/Rayan Calimlim

By ALLISON HORE

Nurses from Balmain Hospital rallied on Thursday afternoon to draw attention to their concerns about nurse-to-patient ratios in NSW hospitals. 

The rally was part of a broader campaign by the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA), who are calling on the NSW government to introduce a mandated minimum nurse-to-patient ratio. 

A study published in The Lancet showed a policy introducing minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios Queensland hospitals has “saved lives, prevented readmissions, shortened hospital stays, and reduced costs.” The policy, introduced in 2016, limited the average number of patients per nurse to four.

The NSWNMA is hoping to see a similar policy introduced in NSW. Organiser Mark Murphy said not having a mandated minimum ratio in NSW hospitals puts patients at risk and leaves hospitals out of pocket. 

“Our members are constantly telling us they’re showing up to work to find their shift is short-staffed, or they’re being hammered with requests to stay back and do overtime,” said Mr. Murphy.

“The NSW government has the power to fix this. They can improve patient care immediately by implementing shift-by-shift ratios here in NSW. The crazy thing is, we know ratios are already saving lives and saving money in Queensland.”

Paul Addy, a delegate of the NSWNMA for Balmain Hospital, has been working for NSW Health for 12 years. He said appropriate nurse-to-patient ratios at Balmain Hospital would be a way of giving back to the oldest members of the Inner West community, who the hospital serves. But he said it has been difficult to convince the government to make the change. 

“If someone asked me what’s the pros of being a nurse? I’d say it’s the patients. What’s the cons? It’s dealing with the bloody government,” he said.

Support from parliament, council

Speaking at the rally on Thursday, Greens member for Balmain, Jamie Parker, said he is “committed to seeing ratios implemented.” He said he would take the campaign calls up with his colleagues in the NSW parliament, and to work with the opposition and other minor parties to “press the government to make real change.”

“When you look at the support that’s been given in healthcare, nurses and midwives are the ones that are being left behind,” said Mr. Parker.

“It’s not just a moral issue, there’s a patient safety issue at stake.”

Inner West mayor, Darcy Byrne also spoke at the rally. He said the rhetoric around frontline workers and the importance of nurses has not been matched with action from the government.

“Every single citizen of NSW has one of those stories, about how nurses have been there at their time of crisis when they really depended on them,” he said.

“It’s a very basic request to have safe ratios, you’re not even asking for anything for yourselves. You’re asking to make sure that the patients you look after are properly cared for and are safe.”

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