Macarthur nurses band together to fight for better staff to patient ratios

Fair go for nurses: NSW Nurse and Midwives Association members handed their petition to Campbelltown MP Greg Warren this morning. Picture: Chris Lane
Fair go for nurses: NSW Nurse and Midwives Association members handed their petition to Campbelltown MP Greg Warren this morning. Picture: Chris Lane

Hospital staff and supporters across Macarthur have banded together to fight for mandated nurse to patient ratios.

More than 500 people signed a petition, created by members of the Macarthur branch of NSW Nurse and Midwives Association (NSWNMA), urging the state government to support local nurses.

The petition was presented to Campbelltown MP Greg Warren this morning (Wednesday, March 6).

Campbelltown nurse and NSWNMA delegate Melissa Vowell said the region's nurses were in desperate need of mandated nurse to patient ratios.

"I work in emergency and at the moment we do not have any ratios so us nurses can be looking after 10-11 [patients] at once," she said.

"We have two nurses in the waiting room and they can be looking after 30 to 40 patients at a time.

"Staff are burnt out - we even have trouble getting replacements when someone calls in sick."

The NSWNMA is calling for a ratio of one nurse to three patients in emergency and paediatrics, and one nurse to four patients in other wards.

Ms Vowell said ratios would provide patients with safer care and allow nurses to do their jobs more effectively.

"We love our jobs - I always say that you have to love your job to be a nurse - but we often feel like we can't give people proper care," she said.

"We are constantly worried that we will make a mistake or miss something.

"Nurses, especially the junior nurses, often call in once they get home worrying that they have forgotten something or to check on their patients.

"We are all run off of our feet."

Staff are burnt out - we even have trouble getting replacements when someone calls in sick.

Campbelltown nurse Melissa Vowell

Fellow local nurse and delegate Anna Halls said mandated ratios were way overdue.

"I am heading into retirement and I want to retire knowing my fellow nurses are better off under a new system than in the system I have been working in for the past few years," she said.

"Health is the most important thing you have and there needs to be enough nurses in hospitals to give you the health care you need.

"It's not just about health care though, sometimes you just need to be there to hold your patient's hand or speak with them - but we just don't have the time."

NSWNMA organiser Mark Murphy said the current system was placing an enormous amount of pressure on local nurses.

"The current system has been in for the past eight years but it is seriously flawed," he said.

"We have asked year in and year out for mandated ratios but the government has knocked it back.

"Victoria has a ratio system and it is also on its way in in Queensland.

"There is proof that it works because it is working well in Victoria - these changes are well overdue in NSW."

The Liberal party has promised to employ an additional 5000 nurses across NSW hospitals in the next election under the current system.

However, the Labor party has promised to employ an additional 5500 nurses and bring in mandated ratios.

Last week, Mr Warren and Macarthur paediatrician Dr Andrew McDonald said Campbelltown Hospital was experiencing a staffing crisis and called on the government to take immediate action.