State invests $8.1 million to recruit a further 80 nursing, midwifery and support positions according to HNEH

Concerns that surgical and medical patients are filling beds in Maitland Hospital’s maternity unit has prompted the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association to air their frustration.

The association’s Maitland branch has raised the issue with hospital management along with additional matters including maternity unit staffing levels and are considering holding a rally on Friday if negotiations with Hunter New England Health break down.

Association Branch Official Stacey Butcher said midwives have been under mounting pressure due to increasing numbers of high risk babies and the decision to fill the maternity unit with surgical and medical patients.

“This is unacceptable, and the midwives have had enough,” Ms Butcher said.

This is unacceptable, and the midwives have had enough

NSWNMA Branch Official Stacey Butcher.

In a bid to highlight the problem, the branch had planned an after-shift rally on Friday, however eleventh hour talks between staff, the union and hospital management may have a positive outcome.

HNEH Executive Director, Nursing and Midwifery Elizabeth Grist said HNEH met with the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association on Monday to discuss staffing levels at Maitland Hospital.

“Since 2011, the government has funded the HNELHD for almost 98.7 additional full time equivalent staff – an increase of over 23 per cent, including 44.9 more doctors and 53.8 more nurses,” she said.

“The 2018-19 Budget for HNELHD is $2.3 billion, an increase of over $86 million on the 2017-18 annualised budget.

“In 2018-19 the NSW Government is investing $8.1 million to recruit a further 80 new specialised nursing, midwifery and support positions, fulfilling the Government’s 2015 election commitment to employ an additional 360,” Ms Grist said. 

She said Maitland Hospital is already meeting its Birthrate Plus and Nursing Hours Per Patient Day (NHPPD) obligations. Birthrate Plus® is a tool used by NSW Health and was set out in the state award which was agreed to back in 2011. It provides a framework to assess the hours of care required based on a minimum standard of one-to-one midwifery care throughout labour and birth.

“We value the feedback from the Association and will continue to work with union representatives. Based on their advice, it is our understanding that the rally previously planned for 10 August will not go ahead while discussions continue,” Ms Grist said.

“I want to assure the community that patient and staff safety is always our priority and people can continue to have confidence in Maitland Hospital.”

Member for Maitland Jenny Aitchison supports the nurses and midwives in their push for better conditions not only for themselves but also patients. “Having recently spent time in a private NFP hospital in Sydney myself, it is amazing to see the work performed by our nurses and midwives,” she said. “The ratios are very high and they do result in poor outcomes for patients. Nurses and midwives work incredibly hard and are fantastic in not letting these extreme workloads impact on the way they treat patients.”

Mrs Aitchison said Labor would change away from the “nursing hours system” to a nurse to patient ratio system –  where at any time of the day, on every shift, patients and nurses will know exactly what the staffing level must be. 

“In medical and surgical wards, Labor will deliver a ratio of one nurse to four patients on morning and afternoon shifts and one nurse to seven patients on night shift.”

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