Union attacks nursing workload

NURSES at the John Hunter Children’s Hospital treat more patients each than their Sydney counterparts, says their union, which is calling for the introduction of minimum staffing levels to  more hospitals and wards.

 Hours-to-patient ratios should also be introduced for nurses in emergency departments, paediatric and neo-natal intensive care units, and in adult critical care units,  according to the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association.

 Requirements set for general wards at major hospitals should   be extended to smaller sites,  the association says.

Its members have begun voting on  a  proposed wage claim and staff ratios that the association would take into award negotiations with the government. 

About 400 members in the Hunter area voted  yesterday.

The current award, set in 2011, set nursing hours per day for patients for principal referral and major hospitals, resulting in thousands of extra nurses.

Association general secretary Brett Holmes said the change had improved care for patients and should be extended.

‘‘Many people would be surprised and shocked to know that minimum staffing levels are currently not guaranteed in NSW hospitals for seriously ill infants and children,’’ Mr Holmes said.

According to a survey the union conducted late last year, there is one nurse to every 3.7 or 4.4 patients in the John Hunter Children’s Hospital wards –  an average of one to 4.16 patients.

 That  compared to an average of one nurse to 3.17 patients at Westmead Children’s Hospital and Sydney Children’s Hospital.

John Hunter Children’s Hospital director Pat Marks said yesterday the ratio was one nurse to four on the general wards, and in neonatal. 

 That ratio became  one-to-one in intensive care, one-to-two in high dependency and one-to-three or four in special care.

‘‘Patients across the children’s hospital receive one-to-one care when required, based  on their level of medical need,’’ he  said.

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