Thousands of New South Wales Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) members went on strike on September 1 to push for safe nurse-to-patient ratios and a pay rise. It was their third strike this year.
The NSWNMA said the state’s health system “is at breaking point” as public hospitals struggle to cope with rising patient admissions, without the corresponding rise in staff.
“There simply aren’t enough nurses and midwives and it’s putting patients’ lives at risk,” the union said. “A more transparent nurse-to-patient ratios system is urgently needed to help deliver safe care to all patients across NSW. Safe ratios are a priority for everyone.”
Nurse educator Paula Sanchez told the picket line at Liverpool Hospital that nurses have had enough. “We need to keep campaigning for our rights, also because it also affects patient safety.”
“We need better conditions for nurses otherwise the nurses are going to continue to walk out of jobs and our new graduates are not going to have places to go because they're not going to cope,” she told the ABC.
At the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown a rally of several hundred striking nurses carried placards saying: “Safe ratios save lives”, “Mums count, babies count” and “Band-aid solutions don’t fix bullet holes in the system”.
The nurses chanted “What do we want? Ratios! When do we want them? Now!” and "Hey hey, ho, ho! Unsafe staffing’s got to go!”
A contingent of staff and students marched from the University of Sydney chanting: “Money for health and education, not for profits and exploitation!”
A NSWNMA chairperson thanked the unions and crowd for their support. “The NSW Coalition government doesn’t support ratios, while the Labor opposition says nothing about it.”
Less than a year after supporting an upper house motion to mandate nursing ratios, NSW Labor decided in May not to.
Newtown MP Jenny Leong told the crowd the NSW Greens are “100% in support of your campaign for mandated nurse-to-patient ratios”.
“We are sick and tired of being understaffed and exhausted all the time,” a midwife said. “We need ratios, a safe workplace and fair pay now!”
“Ambulances are coming in and having to wait up to four hours for patient admission,” a nurse from the Emergency Department told the crowd.
An Intensive Care Unit nurse asked, “Do our patients deserve these conditions? No! Do we and our families deserve these conditions? No! Victoria and Queensland have ratios. Why not us in NSW?”
[For more information visit the safe ratio campaign.]