Page 1835 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 8 June 2022

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(d) commit to publicly releasing nurse ratio compliance figures for the Calvary Public Hospital.

Madam Speaker, it was in September 2020, one month before the last ACT election, that the Labor government pledged to finally implement nurse/midwife to patient ratios. Almost two years after its pre-election commitment, Canberrans are still waiting for those nurse/midwife to patient ratios to be fully implemented.

The reason for this notice of motion today is simple. The government promised to implement the ratios and has failed to deliver them. We know, from freedom of information documents obtained by the Canberra Liberals, that a ministerial brief to the health minister dated 18 February this year from Canberra Health Services’ Acting Deputy CEO Colm Mooney reveals only partial compliance with the ratios.

The snapshot on ward compliance from 15 February shows that, for the morning shift, only nine out of 17 wards were fully compliant, which is just over half. For the evening shift, only eight out of 17 wards were fully compliant, which is less than half. Predictions for the night shift were that it would not be fully compliant. The ratios update to the minister states, “As you are aware, due to the impact COVID-19 is having on our workforce, we continue to have challenges with our work rosters and compliance with ratios.” The note to the minister goes on to say, “Canberra Health Services remain confident that we will be fully compliant with phase 1 of ratios by June 2022 at the end of the amnesty period.” These are not my time frames! Now that we are in June, nearing the end of the amnesty, the purpose of this notice of motion is to hold the government to account, to find out if our health system is now fully compliant with nurse midwife to patient ratios and, if not, why not? And if the government is not complying with ratios, when will it be?

The health minister on 10 March was keen to trumpet how nurse to patient ratios would improve our health system, issuing a media statement with the headline, “More nurses in hospitals to improve patient care and healthcare staff welfare”. The minister said that recruiting more nurses to meet the nurse to patient ratios would improve patient care, reduce the risk of medical complications, and improve occupational safety and job satisfaction for staff. These are all positives, but if our nurse to patient ratios are not fully compliant then the minister cannot claim these outcomes for our health system. If we cannot get the first phase of the ratios right, focusing on general medical, general surgical, acute aged care and the adult mental health units, that does not bode well for the other areas in our hospital system where nurse to patient ratios are yet to be implemented.

In her media statement Minister Stephen-Smith said:

A typical improvement will mean a nurse on a day shift in a medical ward will care for four patients instead of five.

This is promising. But, as the FOI documents reveal, it is not the reality—far from it, given that in February for the evening shift less than half of the wards were fully compliant and, for the morning shift, just over half.

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