Greens call for nurse to patient ratios, announce primary health care clinic

Coffs Harbour Greens candidate Timothy Nott, Dr Amanda Cohn, and Oxley Greens candidate Dominic King with members of the Coffs Harbour Branch of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association.

GREENS candidates for Oxley and Coffs Harbour have called for the immediate implementation of nurse to patient ratios, and improved pay for nurses and midwives.

Dominic King, Greens Candidate for Oxley, said nurses are “worn out” after three years of pandemic conditions.

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“The very least we could do is give them the pay rise they deserve and nurse to patient ratios they are asking for,” Mr King said.

“We know that improved ratios result in better care and decreased hospital time for patients, less burnout of nurses and budget savings around the hiring of expensive agency nurses.”

Timothy Nott, who is running for the seat of Coffs Harbour in Saturday’s state election, said local nurses and midwives have “short staffing and wage rises frozen during high inflation”.

“A new hospital is just a building if we don’t have the nurses, midwives and paramedics that care for patients,” said Mr Nott.

“The Greens support wage rises for nurses and midwives.”

Regional GP Dr Amanda Cohn is running on Saturday for a Greens seat in the NSW Upper House.

Dr Cohn said that people in rural and regional NSW “don’t have fair access to health care”.

“On average people living in metropolitan areas of NSW live 2.2 years longer than people in regional, rural and remote areas.

“As a GP who has worked in rural communities across NSW, I have seen first-hand the consequences of a healthcare system that is in crisis due to decades of Liberal/National governments who have not taken sufficient action.”

Amanda Bailey Derrett, the Secretary of the Coffs Harbour Branch of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, said many local nurses and midwives are actively looking for roles outside the industry, saying that it is the “standard of patient care that suffers”.

“The demand placed on them is exhausting and they simply can’t maintain it.

“The current situation is having a snowball effect because as more nurses leave, the job gets harder, more overtime is expected and the nurses that are left want to leave as well.

“We need nurse to patient ratios to provide quality patient care and keep our nursing and midwifery workforce afloat.”

While Ms Bailey Derrett says the “world class health care that NSW residents expect can’t be delivered without safe staffing”, the NSW Government maintains that nurse to patient ratios are already in place.

“NSW already has a ratio system in place – it is called Nursing Hours Per Patient Day (NHPPD),” A NSW Government spokesperson told News Of The Area.

“The flexible ratio of NHPPD allows for flexibility on the ward so that the clinical judgement of professional nursing and midwifery unit managers can allocate staff based on patient acuity, complexity of care considerations and patient requirements.

“It helps hospitals calculate the minimum number of nurses needed to deliver safe and effective care.

“The ratios proposal from the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association is a rigid system applied broadly across most clinical areas.

“If implemented in the manner sought, it will mean patients will be unable to access beds and wards in many circumstances.”

Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh said the NSW Liberal Nationals Government has a four year plan to invest $4.5 billion more to recruit more than 10,100 full-time equivalent staff into its hospitals and health services.

“(This is) the largest ever boost to the health workforce in the nation’s history,” Mr Singh said.

“Of these, 3800 positions will go into regional NSW.”

On Monday 20 March, the NSW Government released a statement to media spruiking the success of their $883 million regional health workforce incentive scheme, announced as part of the 2022-23 NSW Budget.

The scheme targets critical and hard-to-fill roles including nurses and midwives, pharmacists, allied health professionals and pathologists as well as support and ancillary staff.

“Most importantly, this package is helping us retain the dedicated, hardworking staff who are already valued members of our communities,”said Minister for Regional Health Ms Bronnie Taylor said.

Through the scheme, critical roles in rural and remote locations can be incentivised by offering health workers recruitment and retention incentive packages worth up to $10,000 per annum plus up to $10,000 in other incentives.

Incentives can include a range of benefits, such as a salary boost, sign-on bonuses, additional leave, professional development, study leave and assistance, assistance with childcare expenses, assistance with transport and housing support, and access to training and education.

Mr Singh said 249 staff members have already taken advantage of this scheme in the Coffs Harbour electorate.

“The scheme will be delivered alongside new training and recruitment pathways to build a pipeline of regionally based workers and futureproof healthcare in places like Coffs Harbour.

“Despite what local candidates may say, both the Government and Labor opposition are not supporting nurse-to-patient ratios.”

NSW Labor have also been pitching their health plan this week, promising to “repair the health system and deliver a fresh start for health in New South Wales”.

If elected, Labor is pledging to return safe staffing levels to NSW hospitals, taking pressure off nurses and ensuring they can treat patients with the care they deserve and need.

An additional 500 rural and regional paramedics have also been promised for Labor’s first term.

“The Liberals’ cap on the wages of nurses, paramedics and our essential workers is making it harder to recruit and retain people in these roles,” said Ryan Park, NSW Shadow Minister for Health.

“Our hardworking paramedics are taking this unprecedented action because of the years of underinvestment and the wage cap.

“We all pay the price when there aren’t enough health workers in our hospitals.”

Labor has also unveiled a plan to reduce ‘ambulance ramping’ times outside NSW hospitals.

The party says that ambulance ramping outside hospitals for extended periods forces paramedics to make the decision to leave non-urgent patients unattended at hospitals so they can respond to emergency calls.

“People expect an ambulance to turn up when they call one, and they expect to be able to get into the hospital when they arrive,” said Mr Park.

“Under the Liberals, these expectations can’t be met – it’s a symptom of our system being in crisis.”


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