MEMBERS of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association at Shoalhaven Hospital voted yesterday to present an initial draft of claims for new work conditions to the state government.
The association is seeking a reduction in staff to patient numbers and a 2.5 per cent pay rise for each of the next two years.
Delegates are seeking to have the claim incorporated into the new Public Health System Nurses and Midwives (State) Award, which replaces the current award, which expires on June 30.
A key feature of the claim is guaranteed safer nursing levels for seriously ill children, emergency departments and rural hospitals and multipurpose services, and safer nursing and midwifery staffing arrangements in community health services.
There are claims the current staff to patient ratios are leading to unacceptably heavy workloads and in some cases a lower level of patient care.
Shoalhaven branch delegate Jenny Greed said the claim was all about providing better care for patients.
“At the moment ratios are different for city hospitals compared to country based hospitals like the Shoalhaven,” she said.
“Why shouldn’t they be the same?
“Why shouldn’t country people have equal rights and availability to services as people in city hospitals?
“They are all still patients and deserve the same level of care.”
Many departments – including intensive care, emergency, pediatric, neo-natal intensive care, mental health and community health – also aren’t covered under the current ratios.
“We want to provide our patients with the best care possible,” Ms Greed said.
Fellow delegate Annette Aldrick said current staff to patient ratios – one to five during day shift and one to seven or eight during a night shift - were unacceptable.
That means that during day shift one staff member is allocated to care for five patients.
“Ideally, we would like to see those ratios reduced and especially during the day, with numbers reduced to one to four,” Ms Aldrick said.
“We are also looking for a correct skill mix, meaning that if a registered nurse is off work ill they should be replaced by an RN, or vice versa and enrolled nurse for an enrolled nurse.
“It should replace like for like.”
The way patient numbers are recorded is also an issue.
“The count is taken at midnight,” Ms Aldrick said.
“We usually have much smaller numbers at midnight and it doesn’t take into account how many patients can actually come and go during the course of a day which nurses treat and care for,” she said.
“We are often the first line where people are sick are concerned. They may come to us first and then if ill enough may be transferred to Sydney but unless they are in the hospital at midnight they aren’t counted,” Ms Greed said.
A total of 267 NSWNMA branches, representing more than 33,000 public sector nurses and midwives throughout NSW, are eligible to vote on the new draft agreements, with voting open until March 1.