Nurses have accused the government of stifling debate on staffing and safer patient care and will picket the offices of MPs around the state today in an attempt to get the dialogue started again.
Northern rivers state MPs Don Page, Chris Gulaptis and Geoff Provest will all receive a visit from nurses keen to get answers about the government’s intentions in the new round of bargaining.
Nurses say the government is refusing to extend mandated minimum nurse-to-patient ratios to rural hospitals, emergency departments, seriously ill children, high dependency units and multipurpose services, and provide safer nursing and midwifery staffing arrangements in community health services.
NSW Nurses Association Lismore Base Hospital branch secretary Gil Wilson said nurse-to-patient ratios in rural areas had effectively created a two-tiered health care system.
‘If you get a hip replacement done in Lismore, and a hip replacement done in Sydney, you get more nursing care in Sydney,’ he said.
‘How is that fair to rural communities? We got the good ratios for metropolitan areas last time, which is great. It was a big ask, which needed 1500 nurses and was an ongoing process that we had to address eventually, which is what this claim is for.
‘Our whole claim is about patient care, we’re not asking for any more remuneration than the government is offering.’
Mr Wilson explained that by rejecting the claim and threatening to play hardball, the government was treating rural patients as second-class patients.
The nurses need a new wages and conditions agreement as their current agreement expires at the end of next month and are keen to start negotiations but the government has simply made an offer and threatened to get the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (NSW IRC) to make up a whole new award should nurses and midwives not accept it.
The association’s general secretary, Brett Holmes, said today’s delegations will attempt to get the government back to the bargaining table as well as question the proposed award being ‘forced’ on nurses.
‘Ramming a new pay and conditions award down the throats of nurses and midwives in this way is a violation of their rights at work and also treats the needs of most public hospitals and community health services with contempt,’ Mr Holmes said.
‘In particular, it is a slap in the face for regional and rural communities around the state who are entitled to the same mandated-minimum nursing ratios as the big city hospitals.
‘We are asking the O’Farrell government not to proceed in this dictatorial fashion. However, if it does, nurses and midwives will continue their Ratios Put Patient Safety First campaign until we are satisfied safer nurse-to-patient ratios have been achieved.’
Nurses will picket about 45 MPs’ offices around the state at about midday today.
More than 200 association branches, representing more than 30,000 public-sector nurses and midwives throughout NSW, have endorsed the union’s new ratios and wages claim, which was formally presented to the state government, via the Health Department in March.