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Friday, September 2, 2022
In New South Wales, Australia, public sector members of the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) have taken 24-hour strike action from 7am on Thursday 1st of September, 2022 through until 7am Friday, 2nd of September. From Tweed Heads to Albury, from Randwick to Broken Hill, thousands [according to NSWNMA] of nurses and midwives walked off the job for the third time this year in their fight for safe staffing ratios. As communicated in the union’s media release, life-preserving services are being maintained in public hospitals and health services for the duration the strike.
Led by a 24-hour picket of Western Sydney nurses and midwives outside Westmead Hospital, with signs reading “enough is enough” and “this hospital is not staffed for safety”, over 65 local community rallies have also taken place in rural towns, regional cities and across Sydney.
Joining crowds of members and supporters in Gosford, Newcastle, Bankstown and Westmead during the day, NSWNMA General Secretary, Shaye Candish, said the NSW government’s refusal to consider ratios to improve patient outcomes and guarantee a safe working environment sends a message that nurses and midwives are not valued. “The longer this government stalls on adopting safe nurse-to-patient ratios, the more we’ll continue to see more nurses and midwives leaving the profession. We want ratios, safer workplaces and fair pay,” said Ms Candish. “The evidence is clear from Queensland and Victoria that ratios do save lives, ratios save money, and ratios will keep nurses in health and midwives supporting mums and babies.
“Over 3,000 nurses and midwives have moved interstate in the past few years. It’s time we caught up with the rest of the country and provided these highly skilled health professionals with the support they need to deliver the clinical care our communities deserve.”
NSWNMA Assistant General Secretary, Michael Whaites, said nurses and midwives were sick and tired of being told to keep quiet, keep working short staffed, keep accepting overtime and keep turning up shift after shift, day after night.
“We need safe staffing ratios in every ward, on every shift, in every hospital and health service. We need a government brave enough to accept advice from the same clinicians who have carried this state on their shoulders and are in the business of saving lives every single day,” said Mr Whaites outside St George Hospital in Kogarah, Southern Sydney.
Nurses and midwives are braving the elements to maintain a picket outside Westmead Hospital through until 7am Friday, as they continue conversations with community members about ratios. Speaking outside the hospital, nurse Denny Anderson shared that staffing was a constant challenge. “We’re often five, six, seven nurses short per shift, and what that means is increased workloads for us and obviously care that we can’t provide for our patients in the emergency department,” he said, adding that nurses should look after no more than three or four patients per shift.
Nurse educator Paula Sanchez told the picket line at Liverpool Hospital in the South Western Sydney that nurses have had enough. “We need to keep campaigning for our rights, also because it also affects patient safety.”
“We need better conditions for nurses otherwise the nurses are going to continue to walk out of jobs and our new graduates are not going to have places to go because they’re not going to cope,” she told the ABC.
Roughly 100 nurses, midwives and healthcare managers gathered together in Port Macquarie on the NSW Mid North Coast for the statewide strike action. Registered nurse, Kim Wiegold, said she and her colleagues work under “extremely tough conditions”.
At the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown, 4 kilometres south-west of the CBD, a rally of several hundred striking nurses carried placards saying: “Safe ratios save lives”, “Mums count, babies count” and “Band-aid solutions don’t fix bullet holes in the system”. Some of their chants were: “What do we want? Ratios! When do we want them? Now!” and “Hey hey, ho, ho! Unsafe staffing’s got to go!”
The NSWNMA said it would continue to advocate for ratios on behalf of its members and reiterated calls for urgent action by the Premier and NSW government to guarantee safe staffing with ratios.
A NSWNMA chairperson thanked the unions and crowd for their support. “The NSW Coalition government doesn’t support ratios, while the Labor opposition says nothing about it.” Newtown MP Jenny Leong told the crowd at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital the NSW Greens are “100% in support of your campaign for mandated nurse-to-patient ratios”.
“We are sick and tired of being understaffed and exhausted all the time,” a midwife said. “We need ratios, a safe workplace and fair pay now!”
“Ambulances are coming in and having to wait up to four hours for patient admission,” a nurse from the Emergency Department told the crowd.
An Intensive Care Unit nurse asked, “Do our patients deserve these conditions? No! Do we and our families deserve these conditions? No! Victoria and Queensland have ratios. Why not us in NSW?”
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), South Australian (SA) Branch, has contacted their sister union in NSW, expressing support and solidarity for the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association and the strike action being taken by nurses and midwives for safer staffing and fair pay. Unlike NSWNMA, the ANMF (SA Branch) has been given a commitment to legislated nurse-patient ratios by the South Australian Government, and is currently continuing to negotiate in the Enterprise Agreement for safer staffing, better wages and conditions and measures to attract and retain nurses and midwives into the system.