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December 9, 2021

Nurses and midwives rally during Health Inquiry in Lismore

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Nurses and midwives at Lismore Base Hospital walked off the job for more than 15 hours earlier this month in a desperate bid to improve staffing levels across the local hospital. They are once again highlighting this issue today.

In Australia we tout the fact that we have a ‘high quality’ and ‘free’ health care system but is this really the case? In particular is it the case for health care in rural NSW regions for example here in the Northern Rivers?

Today nurses and midwives will be holding lunchtime rallies across the Northern Rivers calling for nurse-to-patient ratios and highlighting widespread issues being exposed at the rural health inquiry, which is due to hear submissions today in Lismore. Ballina, Clarence Valley and Maclean District Hosiptal NSWNMA branch members will be rallying highlighting the issues that they face due to lack of funding support.

The Health Inquiry meeting, being held at the Lismore Workers Club, in Lismore today is being livestreamed from 1.30pm.

NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said members in Northern NSW want the government to negotiate on shift-by-shift ratios, including one nurse to three patients (1:3) in emergency, paediatrics and post-natal maternity wards.

‘In the past fortnight, over a thousand nurses and midwives have walked off the job, closed beds or rallied at 30 public health sites statewide, no longer prepared to accept the extreme pressures they are facing day and night,’ said Mr Holmes.

‘The only thing keeping our public hospitals running is the goodwill of nurses and midwives, working excessive overtime to try and ensure their patients get the care they need.

‘We need ratios to ensure our hospitals are safe for everyone accessing care and the staff trying to deliver care. Victoria and Queensland have mandated nurse-to-patient ratios. It’s time for NSW to catch up.’

Funding needed

The need for greater funding of hospitals is being highlighted by Shadow Minister for Health Ryan Park and local MP Janelle Saffin.

‘Yesterday at Taree, the hearing heard from local residents who described the situation as “atrocious” and that they were in “dire straits”. Testimony was given that Manning Lakes Hospital has 18 beds in the ED however only 9 are funded to be used,’ pointed out Mr Park and Ms Saffin in a press release this morning.

They said that the Upper House inquiry has already heard damning evidence about:

Hospitals regularly running out of antibiotics

  • A patient who had to pick up a suture kit on the way to a hospital to mend their lacerated forehead
  • A hospital cook required to look after patients because nurses were too busy.
  • Three operating theatres being used for storage

Shadow Minister for Health Ryan Park said the hearings have highlighted the desperate need for more support and resources.

‘The health inquiry has provided significant evidence surrounding the healthcare crisis impacting NSW.

‘There have been over 700 submissions made to this inquiry but nothing is more powerful and heartbreaking than hearing the personal accounts of people who are working tirelessly through overtime to provide quality care, or hearing from patients and their loved ones who’ve struggled to get access to what most of us would describe as basic level of health care.’

State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin said the Government needed to understand the level of community concern and give rural health funding a high priority in next week’s NSW Budget.

‘The Government needs to realise the full extent of this crisis and respond accordingly,’ Ms Saffin said.

‘My own community is telling me and others that they need additional staff in our local hospital, enhanced resources and access to better health services locally.

‘The Nationals, backed by the Liberals, made an election commitment in February 2019 to deliver 284 extra nurses and midwives, 32 doctors, 38 allied health staff, and 50 hospital support workers across the Lismore Electorate during this current Parliamentary term. Where is the proof of action?

‘This Government’s 2021–22 NSW Intergenerational Report states that one third of the NSW population lives in regional areas, but we certainly don’t see one third of the State’s health budget spent here in the regions.’

Members of the NSWNMA Lismore Hospital branch will meet with Lismore MP Janelle Saffin and Shadow Health Minister Ryan Park to discuss unsafe staffing concerns and seek support for nurse-to-patient ratios.

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