Around 5,000 nurses and midwives marched on NSW Parliament yesterday with thousands more joining in around the state, including at Lismore, to seek safer staff-to-patient ratios in the public health system. Yet there are reports that NSW Health is considering ‘taking action’ against them said Greens MP and health spokesperson Cate Faehrmann.
Burnout from the COVID-19 pandemic and being fed up with the NSW government’s refusal to prioritise safe staffing in public hospitals and health services led to the action. The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) members stood in solidarity and declared to the NSW Premier their goodwill was over.
NSWNMA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, told the crowd of nurses, midwives and supporters sprawled along Macquarie Street it was an historic day, and commended more than 13,000 members who voted to strike, for standing up for their patients and themselves.
‘This staffing crisis in our health system should never have happened and could have been avoided if those sitting in that building had listened to us,’ Mr Holmes said.
‘For over 10 years we have campaigned for shift by shift ratios for nurses and better staffing for midwives because we know ratios work, they save lives and save money. Our role is not to simply stay at the bedside keeping patients alive – we have a duty to everyone in our care to stand up and speak out, especially those unable to do so for themselves.’
NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Shaye Candish, said it was disgraceful how quick the NSW government had been to praise nurses and midwives, yet ignore the need for safe staffing or better pay and conditions to support the health workforce.
‘We want you to implement our shift by shift nursing and midwifery staffing claims for safe patient care; commit to a fair pay rise above 2.5 per cent and introduce a COVID-19 allowance; and withdraw the amendment to the Workers’ Compensation Act that would force health workers to prove they contracted COVID-19 at work,’ said Ms Candish.
‘Frontline healthcare workers do not strike lightly,’ said MP Faehrmann.
‘For nurses and midwives to take this action shows us just how dire things have become in our public hospitals. Instead of intimidating workers with threats of disciplinary action, the Government needs to act urgently and do more to support them.
‘Nurses and midwives are at breaking point. They’ve worked around the clock to keep us safe throughout this pandemic and received nothing but empty thanks and an effective pay cut twice over two years from this government,’ she said.
‘Yesterday, I was proud to join the thousands of nurses, midwives and their supporters outside NSW Parliament. I didn’t spot a single one of my Liberal or National party colleagues amongst the crowd.
‘The Greens support the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association’s calls for safe staff to patient ratios, better conditions and fair pay.
‘We have also been calling for NurseKeeper, our plan which would see an immediate $5,000 bonus and another in 12 months as a retention measure and show of gratitude as well as pandemic pay of at least $60 per shift.
‘We’ve heard for several weeks now that the Government might be considering some sort of pandemic pay, or even a pay rise for frontline healthcare workers, yet nothing has been announced. No wonder they’re at breaking point because they are sick of empty thanks and promises from this government,’ said Ms Faehrmann.