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Newcastle nurses, midwives rally for modest reward


Newcastle’s nurses and midwives will mark International Day of the Midwife today with a lunchtime rally outside John Hunter Hospital.

While the occasion is usually celebrated by staff, they’ll instead highlight their ongoing calls for improvements throughout the industry.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) members are expected to be joined on Thursday 5 May – from noon until 1pm – by community leaders, politicians and their supporters.

Personnel from both John Hunter Hospital and John Hunter Children’s Hospital have been actively campaigning for safe staffing across the facility, seeking nurse-to-patient ratios to be introduced on every shift and a modest pay rise to recognise the growing demands of their work.

Despite two state-wide strikes this year, the NSWNMA members are yet to receive any formal pay or conditions offers from the NSW Government.

Today’s action comes as poor Emergency Department (ED) staffing continues to impact patient care.

The union wants the NSW Government to introduce a ratio of one nurse to every three ED treatment spaces to improve services.

The request is backed by Bureau of Health Information (BHI) figures that show patients’ rating of overall care in December 2020 to June 2021 fell below 2019-20 levels.

According to the BHI, overall experiences were significantly lower than the state average at Blacktown, Inverell and Nepean hospital.

NSWNMA general secretary Brett Holmes said the data highlighted ED staff were unable to check on as many patients while they waited for treatment in John Hunter, Wollongong, Belmont, Westmead, Nepean, Shellharbour and Wyong hospitals, which all performed worse than the NSW median.

“We’ve indicated to the government numerous times how tough conditions have become inside many emergency departments due to chronic understaffing issues,” he explained.

“Short staffing was impacting on patient care and safety well before the pandemic and these results show how it was exacerbated during COVID-19 peaks.”

The BHI data indicated one in five ED patients (19%) statewide said they received contradictory information about their condition or treatment.

At Inverell Hospital, in the Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD), only 42% of people thought ED staff worked “very good” together, while 54% said they had enough time to discuss their health issue with staff.

“There’s been no reprieve for our public sector nurses and midwives across the state, and we’re continuing to see them reduce their hours or leave nursing and midwifery entirely,” Mr Holmes said.

“The volume of overtime they’re being asked to do, growing skills mix issues and recruitment delays are continuing to take a toll.

“We need nurse-to-patient ratios of 1:3 on every shift in our EDs and the NSW Government needs to stop relying on its decade-old staffing model that no longer reflects the volume of work necessary to meet demand.”

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