Healthy promises: 'The devil is always in the detail'

While state election health funding announcements have been welcomed by the sector, the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association says the promise does not go far enough in solving staffing issues.

There's no specific information on how many nurses the South East Regional Hospital will have, so it's a promise without substance.

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association Bega branch delegate and NSW councillor Diane Lang

On Sunday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the Liberal Party will recruit 5000 nurses and midwives across the state over the next four years at a cost of $2.8billion, with the Labor Party quickly mirroring the election promise.

Come Wednesday Ms Berejiklian announced a plan for a further $45m over four years to boost the number of palliative care nurses by 100.

While Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the staffing increase will mean "even higher" nurse-to-patient ratios than the NSWNMA has lobbied for, Bega branch delegate and NSW councillor Diane Lang said although happy with both announcements, there was "no guarantee it will happen".

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Bega MP Andrew Constance in Newcastle last week.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Bega MP Andrew Constance in Newcastle last week.

Ms Lang said the government's current policy of calculating staff-to-patient should also be scrapped for shift-by-shift calculations.

"Staff are counted at midnight each day and then averaged out over the week which means one good shift can make the data look good," Ms Lang said.

"There's no specific information on how many nurses the South East Regional Hospital will have, so it's a promise without substance."

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association Bega branch members protest for ratios at the South East Regional Hospital. Picture: Supplied

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association Bega branch members protest for ratios at the South East Regional Hospital. Picture: Supplied

She said the Labor Party had promised the union it would adopt the shift-by-shift ratio by the start of the next financial year if elected in March.

The association's general secretary Brett Holmes said ratios "must be protected in law" if they are to be as effective as other states.

Mr Holmes said the government is "ignoring the systemic flaws in its current rostering system which jeopardise safe patient care", and called for the enforcement of minimum ratios.

"Experience tells us without minimum, guaranteed nurse-to-patient ratios on every shift and every ward – nothing will change in our public hospitals," he said

“Guaranteed nurse-to-patient ratios would provide a clear and accountable rostering system that patients can rely on and nurses can trust at all times.

"It’s disappointing, after eight years, the government has chosen to ignore this.

“A guaranteed ratios system must exist in both the city and country NSW. A patient’s postcode should not define their level of care."

Bega MP Andrew Constance said almost half the new positions will be in regional areas, adding that "good patient care relies not only on first-class facilities but skilled people to deliver it".

“Good patient care relies not only on first-class facilities but skilled people to deliver it, which is why we are building on our commitment to look after those who look after us,” Mr Constance said.

Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes said the pledges from both parties are "very welcome", after last year's closure of Bega's private hospital "added to the pressure on local public health facilities".

"The devil is always in the detail, so we will be closely evaluating the election promises of all parties in the lead up to election day."

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