A NSW Labor government would enshrine into legislation nurse to patient ratios in the emergency, maternity, medical, surgical and paediatric hospital wards.
Currently, in NSW, there is no requirement for nurse to patient ratios in public hospitals. Labor says its plan will see thousands more nurses in regional hospitals like Dubbo.
Dubbo Labor candidate Stephen Lawrence said the legislation would mean one nurse for every three patients in major emergency departments; one nurse for every three patients in paediatric wards; one midwife for every three mothers in postnatal wards; one nurse to each patient in resuscitation beds in adult and paediatric emergency departments; and one nurse to every four patients in the day time and one to seven at night in medical and surgical wards.
There will also be more support for community health nurses including those working in palliative care.
President of NSW Nurses and Midwives Association Dubbo Base Hospital Branch Kelly Crosby said Labor's nurse to patient ratio program would have a positive impact on hospitals.
“This would make a big difference to the level of care we can provide to patients coming through the door," she said.
"As nurses, we always want to do the best for our patients, but unfortunately that’s not always possible if we’re working short staffed.
"In our ED, nurses are often juggling care for too many patients at once. We know if we had a ratio of one nurse to three patients in emergency, we could give people what they need, like more attention at the bedside.
"Having a commitment for maternity is a positive step too. We all know that babies don’t arrive at a 9-5 schedule; they come when they’re ready! So if we had ratios in our postnatal ward, local mums would get better support because our midwives could dedicate more time with them.”
Mr Lawrence said the initiative would begin after the March 2019 election and it will be rolled out throughout Labor’s first term.
"Whether you have a kid visiting the emergency room or you are expecting a baby, everyone deserves to have the improved standards of care that come from mandating nurse to patient ratios," he said.
“Only Country Labor will deliver on more nurses and midwives where they are needed, especially in our regions, and unlike the Nationals, we will never privatise hospitals.”
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the ‘nurse hours per patient days ratios’ used by NSW Health under Labor in 2010, with the agreement of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, continues to provide excellent patient care and maximum flexibility for hospitals to keep wards open.
“Labor’s new policy is un-costed, un-tested and under-cooked," he said.
Shooters Fishers and Farmers Dubbo candidate Lara Quealy said it would be much better if the NSW Government committed to guaranteed minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, like there is in Victoria and Queensland.
“In Sydney, one nurse has to look after three patients at the one time," she said.
“But in country hospitals, one nurse might have to look after seven or eight patients because our hospitals lacks staff
“This is dangerous for patients and unfair on nurses."