Home | Industry & Reform | ED stats a wake-up call on nurse-to-patient ratios: union

ED stats a wake-up call on nurse-to-patient ratios: union

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) is calling for improved nurse-to-patient ratios on the back of figures showing that the winter season was the busiest quarter on record for emergency departments in NSW public hospitals.

In its most recent Healthcare Quarterly report looking at July to September, The Bureau of Health Information (BHI) said there were more than 720,000 ED presentations in the winter season, up 9.4 per cent on the same period last year.

BHI acting chief executive Dr Kim Sutherland said winter is typically the busiest quarter for NSW public hospitals, but this winter season was particularly busy as staff dealt with one of the worst flu seasons the state has experienced in recent years.

The report also found fewer patients had treatment started on time than the same period last year (down 3.6 per cent) and fewer spent four hours or less in the ED (down 3.3 per cent).

Sutherland said: "While the report shows decreases of between three and four percentage points in emergency department timeliness measures, there were increases of between nine and 10 per cent in the number of patients presenting to – and arriving by ambulance at – emergency departments."

General secretary of the NSWNMA Brett Holmes said the difficult flu season generated massive workloads for nurses, doctors and other hospital staff.

Holmes said it’s important to acknowledge the efforts of hardworking nurses and other hospital staff who dug deep and managed such a difficult influx of ED patients.

“There is no doubt the tough flu season this winter was a contributing factor towards a number of challenges faced by nurses, who went above and beyond to deliver the best possible safe patient care to their communities,” he said. “We know from feedback from our members that many nurses spent the winter period working extremely short staffed, missing meal breaks and working many hours of overtime just to keep up with demand.”

NSWNMA said the results are yet another reason why the Berejiklian Government needs to seriously improve and expand the current nurse-to-patient ratios within the public hospital system.

“We know ratios save lives. The evidence is also clear that ratios work, when they are implemented correctly and are maintained at their minimum standard,” he said, adding the union has seen many instances of the minimum number of nurses to patients deliberately not being rostered.

“Our members are deeply disappointed and are fed up their calls for better nurse-to-patient ratios continue to be ignored.”

He said it was imperative the Berejiklian Government and the NSW Ministry of Health took notice of their nursing and midwifery staff and improved ratios.

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