Nurses union wants better staff ratios

AMBULANCE backlogs outside hospitals could be alleviated with better nurse-to-patients ratios in emergency departments, the nurses union has said.

The NSW Nurses Association has said it will campaign for mandatory staffing ratios in more areas of the health system when the NSW nurses industrial award expires in June.

At present some of the most intensive wards in the health system such as emergency departments, intensive care units and paediatrics do not have mandatory nurse-to-patient staff ratios.

The Newcastle Herald reported on Thursday that overworked Hunter paramedics did the equivalent work of 50 full-time employees in overtime in one year.

The  Herald  reported last year that, over  two financial years, Hunter ambulances had wasted the combined equivalent of a year sitting at overcrowded hospital emergency departments.

NSW Nurses Association Hunter organiser Matt Byrne said while emergency departments could be unpredictable it was possible to create some structure.

Ratios could ensure there were more nurses on duty to treat patients when departments were busy, meaning ambulances could be back on the road sooner.

‘‘Certainly nurses are flat chat,’’ he said.

Mr Byrne said in staff-to-patient ratio wards nurses typically cared for between four and seven patients depending on the shift.

Ratios are worked out using a formula that assesses total nursing hours per patient per day.