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Nurses push for nurse-to-patient ratios

Sydney Morning Herald, 9/20/10

By Lema Samandar
Sydney Morning Herald
September 20, 2010

Nurses want minimum nurse-to-patient ratios to improve the quality and safety of patient care in NSW.

Brett Holmes, general secretary of the NSW Nurses Association (NSWNA), on Monday said the reform had the backing of both public hospital and community healthcare nurses.

If implemented, it would be the biggest reform of the NSW public health system in decades, he said.

"The evidence from Victoria, California and other places with minimum nurse-to-patient ratios is now in and they work and work better than any other system," he said.

The NSWNA claims the health system has been plagued by nurse shortages and poor skill mix for too long, risking patient safety.

It wants a one-to-four nurse to patient ratio at most metropolitan hospitals to be included in the new award, after the old one expired on June 30 this year.

Mr Holmes said the ratio had worked well in Victoria and would help overworked nurses to cope.

"For example, nurse-to-patient ratios have existed in Victoria for ten years and have greatly improved the health system in that state and attracted many former nurses back to the profession," he said.

"If it is good enough for the people of Victoria, it is good enough for the people of NSW.

The NSWNA has also put in a claim for a wage increase of five per cent per annum and a one per cent lift in superannuation.

The campaign to push for the new agreement will include advertising, public events and meetings with state and federal politicians.

More than $1 million is expected to spend on advertising, Mr Holmes said.

"Guaranteeing a mandated minimum nurse-to-patient ratio in our public health system is, in our opinion, the best thing that our state government could do in the interests of the people of NSW," he said.

NSWNA officials will hold their first meetings, to discuss the issue, with staff from the premier and health minister this week.

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