Jemma Stanton talks to nurses and midwives gathered in Lismore as they highlight the pressures they are under as a result of understaffing, increased workloads and poor skill mix issues across various wards, centres and units in Lismore.
Jemma Stanton talks to nurses and midwives gathered in Lismore as they highlight the pressures they are under as a result of understaffing, increased workloads and poor skill mix issues across various wards, centres and units in Lismore. Marc Stapelberg

Nurses, midwives call for ratios for 'safer' hospital care

A STATEWIDE change backed by Lismore nurses and midwives could help to save lives, union members say.

Members of the Lismore Base Hospital branch of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association yesterday gathered in the heart of Lismore, urging the public to sign a pledge supporting a nursing ratio system.

Already in place in Queensland and Victoria, the system would see nursing numbers set by the number of patients.

Lismore's NSWNMA vice president Heather Ryan said the system would offer safer care to the state's current formula, which allows for a certain number of nursing hours "per patient day".

"With ratios, we know you get better patient care and better safety and that's what we're all about," Ms Ryan said.

"It's mandated so in places like the special care nursery at the Lismore Base Hospital it would be one nurse or midwife to three babies.

"In intensive care it's one to one but across the rest of the hospital the main (ratio) is one to four."

Ms Ryan, a midwife at Lismore Base Hospital, said they were also calling for babies to be counted in their patient numbers.

"At the moment, the babies we look after don't count in our numbers," she said.

"So we're giving care to these babies but they're not included in the hours of care that's allocated.

"Babies can have problems and we can have small babies who are not in the special care nursery, but they're still needing a lot of nursing care on the ward.

"They might be having blood therapy done, they might be having phototherapy, mums might need extra help with breastfeeding."

But Ms Ryan said a ratio system would bolster care hospital-wide.

"Ratios can mean the difference between life and death," she said.

"If we don't have enough staff on, you can't give safe care."

She stressed the campaign was not against the Northern NSW Local Health District or Lismore Base Hospital, but the State Government's hesitancy in implementing the change.

"This is a campaign that's not against Lismore Base Hospital, this is a state campaign to get care ... which is better for our communities," she said.

"It's before the government at the moment so (NSW health minister) Brad Hazzard, is havinig meetings with the unions.

"If Brad Hazzard doesn't sign off on it, we'll keep campaigning until the state election.

"We want to be able to give the best care we possibly can and at the moment we can't guarantee that because of staffing."

Lismore resident Gemma Stanton signed the pledge to support a ratio system yesterday.

"That's something I'm definitely interested in supporting," she said.

"It's really nice to see (staff) out here.

"I think that definitely shows me that it's an issue because that's someone who's working in the field.

"It kind of brings it home a little bit more."

The Northern Star is seeking comment from Mr Hazzard's office and Lismore MP Thomas George.



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