At least 440 new doctors, nurses and support staff will be recruited to the region’s hospitals in a pre-election promise by the NSW Government.
It’s part of what has been described by the government as the “largest workforce boost in the history of Australian healthcare”, and will see 8300 additional staff recruited to hospitals across the state.
That figure includes 5000 nurses and midwives – almost half who will be employed in regional areas of NSW.
In the Illawarra Shoalhaven, more than half the new staff would be nurses and midwives (272); while 52 doctors, 53 allied health staff and 63 hospital support workers would also be recruited.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian made the commitment at an announcement in Sydney on Sunday.
“We are investing $2.8 billion to recruit thousands of extra nurses, midwives and frontline staff to care for patients, far more than Labor promised,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Labor promised hundreds of nurses across NSW in its election material but the Liberals & Nationals are boosting frontline staff numbers to figures never seen before.
“Patients in NSW will now have more nurses to look after them and nurses will have more colleagues to share the workload – all due to our strong economic management.”
Soon after the announcement, Labor leader Michael Daley pledged to match the commitment if his party reached government.
Labor’s treasury spokesman, Keira MP Ryan Park, said Labor had announced in July its plan to introduce nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals which would see thousands more nurses employed in NSW.
“Labor has announced that we will match the commitment of 5000 more nurses. We have always said we will prioritise schools and hospitals before stadiums and we are committed to doing exactly that,” Mr Park said.
“NSW Labor have been talking to the Nurses and Midwives Association of NSW for some time about critical nurse-to-patient ratios – the best measure for improved nursing care.
“We will continue to have discussions with them and the Health Services Union of NSW about how we will deliver better on the ground health services for NSW.
“We have already announced an additional 250 security staff at hospitals across NSW and we are committed to delivering nurse-to-patient ratios.”
NSW Nurses and Midwives Association general secretary Brett Holmes said both major political parties must deliver safe patient care and the only way to do this was to commit to minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, shift by shift.
“Five thousand is a big number but without a commitment to mandated, minimum ratios on every shift and every ward, the government is ignoring the systemic flaws in its current rostering system which jeopardise safe patient care,” Mr Holmes said.
“… It is great to see NSW Labor commit to match and improve on the numbers announced. The key difference we can see is Labor’s promise to deliver mandated shift-by-shift ratios, which are needed to guarantee these numbers result in real nurses and midwives at the bedside.”
Instead of ratios, the NSW Government uses a nursing hours per patient day model, which means staffing levels vary from hospital to hospital. For instance Wollongong and Shoalhaven hospitals are classified as peer group A hospitals; while Shellharbour Hospital is peer group B.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said nursing hours per patient day would increase dramatically in Peer Group B and C hospitals across NSW, from 5.2 hours to six hours and 5.5 to six hours respectively.
But Mr Holmes said a guaranteed ratios system must exist in both city and country NSW: “A patient’s postcode should not define their level of care.”