Nurses join forces to fight health cuts

Illawarra nurses will travel to Sydney today to join their colleagues from across the state - and around the world - in a global day of action to protest cuts to healthcare services.

About 10 Illawarra delegates of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association will take part in the day, which will see nurses from 14 countries stand together as part of the new advocacy group Global Nurses United.

The association's Shellharbour branch president Karin Tilden said the lunchtime Sydney rally would focus on the state union's ongoing campaign to improve and extend nurse-to-patient ratios.

Nurses plan to walk from Hyde Park to Parliament House to present a petition calling on the state government to act on ratios.

"Nurses from hospitals across the region, including Shellharbour, Shoalhaven and Wollongong, have been out in force collecting signatures and the community response has been overwhelming," Ms Tilden said.

"Across the Illawarra more than 1500 signatures have been collected, which will go towards the state target of 100,000 signatures. We need at least 10,000 signatures to get the issue debated on the floor of Parliament."

Ms Tilden said the introduction of ratios in 2010 for major metropolitan public hospitals in NSW, including Wollongong, had been a great advance for patient care.

She said there was no reason why those ratios should not be extended to regional and rural hospitals where nurses were forced to deal with five or six patients at once.

"We are campaigning for a ratio of four patients to one nurse in general wards, and three to one in emergency departments, across the state," she said. "It's about safety for patients, and safety for nurses."

Ms Tilden said nurses were also celebrating the launch of Global Nurses United - the new voice of nurses and midwives on the international stage.

"The GNU has been formed to highlight the impacts of government cost-cutting on nurses - and their patients - across the globe," she said.

A NSW Ministry of Health spokesperson said the nurses' day of action was not expected to involve any stop-work or industrial action.

"It is therefore not anticipated that there will be any impact on the care of patients in our hospitals and health services," he said.

"The announced activities mainly centre around the presentation of a petition to Parliament by off-duty nurses in support of the association's ratios campaign.

There may be similar, complementary activities in regional or local areas."

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