LOCAL nurses will launch a campaign today to promote their claim for mandatory nursing ratios in rural areas.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association has voted for a new public health award, which would see the same compulsory minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in rural hospitals and multi-purpose services as in large metropolitan hospitals.
Other key features of the claim include the introduction of minimum compulsory ratios in various children’s units, the introduction of ratios to units such as the emergency department, mandated client/patient time in community health, and better ratios in mental health.
The association’s Tamworth branch secretary, Roz Norman, said ratios had been introduced to medical and surgical wards and the rehabilitation unit at the Tamworth hospital and, despite difficulties in providing the right skills mix, had started to make a difference in nursing and patient care.
But Mrs Norman said the number of nurses in smaller rural hospitals continued to leave nurses overworked and patients at risk.
She said one registered nurse and one enrolled nurse in such a hospital could find themselves caring for 20 patients, plus covering the emergency department.
People presenting to the emergency department could take the registered nurse off the floor for hours, Mrs Norman said, which left the enrolled nurse in the precarious situation of caring for all of the hospital’s patients.
“These aren’t unusual situations at all in rural and regional NSW, unfortunately,” Mrs Norman said.
She told The Leader that today would mark the start of an ongoing campaign to make the NSW Department of Health aware of the difficulties faced in rural and regional hospitals.
The claim also includes pay rises of 2.5 per cent per year.