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7 April, 2022

Nurses and midwives strike for second time in a decade

Last Thursday, members of the Nurses and Midwifes Association went on strike for an increase in nurse to patient ratios.

By Emily Middleton

While most of NSW striked for 24 hours, Gilgandra only had the capacity to strike for one. Sheree Staggs, the Gilgandra Nurses and Midwives Association branch president, was one of the many members who took to Miller Street plaza to make themselves known.

“We are out here to bring attention to what we need, which is more nurses, and nurse to patient ratios on every ward on every shift,” said Mrs Staggs.

“We need to bring that attention to the community.”

The association last striked six weeks ago, however there has been no formal response since.

“There’s been no negotiations, they might have responded but it wasn’t what we asked for so we need to keep going,” said Mrs Staggs.

Mrs Staggs said that there has been no indication so far of any movement, but the members are staying hopeful.

“We are hopeful that we can get nurse to patient ratios and provide safe care to our clients, residents, and community. They’re the ones who suffer the most.

“When we’re in emergency, the other patients and residents don’t get the care they need. We have less resources to pull on when we need, and we have less people to call when one of us are sick, or we have staff out for a week with covid, there’s just less nurses.

“I mean, we couldn’t even strike for 24 hours. We could only strike for an hour, and people are doing it on their day off or on their lunch break,” said Mrs Staggs.

Before this year, the Nurses and Midwifes Association hadn’t taken industrial action since 2011. This is when the ratios campaign began.

“Funnily enough all this gear we have today was used back in 2011, when we were calling for the same thing, and since then they’ve actually reduced our staff, because those nurses weren’t funded. Well, we say fund them now,” said Mrs Staggs.

The morning of the strike, Greens MP and health spokesperson Cate Faehrmann gave notice in the NSW upper house of her intention to introduce a bill to legislate nurse-to-patient ratios in NSW.

“Nurses and midwives are at breaking point. It’s time for the government to listen to their calls for safe nurse to patient ratios so that patients get a safe level of care,” said Ms Faehrmann.

The Safe Patient Care (Nurse-to-Patient and Midwife-to-Patient Ratios) Bill 2022 will be based upon the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association’s Ratios, Pay and Conditions Award Claim 2022 and consultation undertaken with key stakeholders before being introduced and debated.

“Chronic understaffing is dangerous for patients and it’s dangerous for nurses and midwives. The government has refused to listen to the pleas of our frontline healthcare workers, so if they don’t legislate ratios to make our hospitals safe again, the Greens will.

“This government loves to splash cash on new hospitals but when it comes to ensuring there are enough frontline healthcare workers to actually work in them it cries poor.

“If the government continues to ignore frontline healthcare workers it risks triggering mass resignations and a full-blown public health crisis.

“Both Queensland and Victoria have legislated nurse to patient ratios with South Australia actively considering the issue. With nurses and midwives indicating they will strike until their demands for a safe workplace are listened to, I’m calling on the NSW government to do the same,” said Ms Faehrmann.

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