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Legislation passed to improve nurse and midwife patient ratios

Feb 21, 2019 | Parliament

Mr  BARTON  (Eastern Metropolitan) (11:05:54): I rise to express my support for the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Amendment Bill 2018.

I see it as just one of many ways we can make working conditions better for our hardworking nurses, midwives and healthcare workers.

We can be proud that Victoria was the first jurisdiction in Australia, and the second in the world following California in 1999, to legislate nurse-to-patient ratios. It is well past due time to improve staffing ratios for nurses and to include our midwives so that we reduce any risk to patients. Our existing ratios no longer fit workloads and our understanding of what safe staffing levels should be.

Nurses and midwives are the most trusted profession in Australia. They are an essential part of our health system and they deserve our support. Internationally and here in Australia there is evidence that where legislated ratios have been implemented patients receive better levels of care. These ratios translate to better working conditions for staff and improvements in retention rates of registered nurses.

We have over 50 000 nurses and midwives in our public health system, but it is a tough job and getting harder. Our healthcare system is increasingly complex, patients are more complex, our models of care are more complex and there is ever increasing demand from the public for health services.

As these workloads increase we see increasing job dissatisfaction, burnout and sick days and ultimately higher turnover of staff. There is a direct relationship between workload levels, patient outcomes and nurse-reported quality of care.

The bill will make some important changes.

It provides a new rounding method for determining staffing in specified circumstances, which means that in all instances the number of staff will be rounded up and we can expect to see increases in the number of nurses and midwives on wards.

In our most extreme, sensitive and emotional healthcare situations this bill will make a huge difference to nurses, patients and their families. More nurses on these wards will give everyone more time, which is all anyone is ever asking for.

The bill will make ratios better in palliative care inpatient units, special care nurseries and birthing suites, oncology wards, acute stroke wards, resuscitation beds in emergency departments and haematology wards, and it will enable, in specified circumstances, both nurses and midwives to staff special care nurseries and postnatal wards.

Giving nurses better working conditions and higher staffing numbers will lead to better care, better job satisfaction and better patient outcomes.

Last week we met with Lisa Fitzpatrick from the nurses union. They have been waiting some time for these ratio changes to be passed. This bill is just one step toward make working conditions and workplace stresses less of a burden.

This bill should be a no-brainer.

When we are in a crisis we expect and receive the best medical attention in the world.

Increasing nursing ratios should be an easy decision for us. It has taken far too long to get here.

Nurses matter, so I offer my full support for this bill.

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