Work begins to establish safe staffing levels in NSW hospitals
The NSW Government is today announcing the establishment of the Safe Staffing Working Group, which will plan and drive the implementation of safe staffing levels across the public hospital system starting with emergency departments.
The government is committed to boosting the number of nurses and midwives in NSW hospitals, beginning with our stretched emergency departments (EDs).
Nurses and midwives have long been calling for workforce reform, even before the emergence of COVID-19. However, the pandemic presented a breaking point for nurses, paramedics, hospital cleaners, allied health professionals, security guards and other healthcare heroes.
The safe staffing requirement will then be rolled out across other hospital departments (for example, intensive care units and maternity wards) in a staged manner, informed by expert advice from the Safe Staffing Working Group.
The government will recruit 1200 additional nurses and midwives to our healthcare system within our first term.
This reform will help retain experienced staff while also helping attract our future healthcare workforce.
The reforms support health outcomes for patients while backing essential frontline workers.
The Safe Staffing Working Group will bring together representatives from NSW Health and the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association to chart a pathway forward on implementing this major reform.
The Safe Staffing Working Group will hold its first meeting early next month and will report to NSW Health Secretary Susan Pearce AM, who will provide regular updates to the NSW Minister for Health and Regional Health Ryan Park.
The membership of the working group is as follows:
- Phil Minns, Deputy Secretary, People, Culture and Governance, NSW Health
- Shaye Candish, General Secretary, NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association
- Jo Blackwell, Executive Director for Workplace Relations, NSW Health
- Michael Whaites, Assistant General Secretary, NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association
- Luke Sloane, Coordinator General Regional Health, NSW Health
- Roisin Beard, Lead Industrial Officer – Public Health, NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association
- Renatta Di Staso, Manager – Public Health Organising, NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association
The group will ensure collaboration between NSW Health and its valued nursing and midwifery workforce.
The Safe Staffing Working Group will navigate the complexities of the NSW health system, including:
- the diverse workforce needs of facilities
- varying patient acuity levels
- differences based on time-of-day and specialty type
- nursing workforce planning and supply.
The changes will be implemented by converting the existing Nursing Hours Per Patient Day staffing requirement into minimum and enforceable Safe Staffing Levels within the Public Health System Nurses’ and Midwives’ (State) Award.
NSW Premier Chris Minns said:
“When I visit hospitals and EDs the issue I hear about most often is experienced nurses and midwives leaving because they are overworked and under resourced.
“I’m committed to ensuring the people who looked after us during the pandemic feel looked after by their government.
“This is the first step to safe staffing in hospitals – ensuring there’s 1 nurse for every 3 patients in EDs. It was one of the very first election commitments we made.
“Safe Staffing levels will see more health staff retained, working in areas that need them the most, and it means better outcomes for patients and the level of care they will receive in New South Wales.
“It is critical we have government and representatives for our health staff working together towards this important reform.”
NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said:
“We sat down and listened to our healthcare workers when formulating this policy, and we will keep speaking with our workforce as we implement it.
“Our healthcare workforce has a government that respects its expertise and wants to design improvements alongside it.
“This reform is affordable and responsible.”
NSW Minister for Health and Regional Health Ryan Park said:
“I have great confidence in this group and the expertise it will bring to implementing safe staffing levels in our hospitals.
“It won’t be easy to undo a decade of rising wait times and understaffing, but this government is determined to begin to turn things around.
“At its core, implementing safe staffing levels is about backing in our essential workers. Our comprehensive plan to rebuild our health and hospital system will centre around supporting our essential workers.
“We will continue to work to deliver the best facilities and equipment, but without our essential workers, it won’t make a difference to our patients and their experience through our health system.
“Rebuilding our health system will be a mammoth task, but it is important we get it done right.”