Page 1843 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 8 June 2022

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shift planning, forward planning and, importantly, a work-life balance for our hardworking frontline staff.

I was pleased to see that earlier this year Minister Stephen-Smith announced that there would be an extra 50 nurses working at Canberra and Calvary hospitals. On top of this, the minister made it clear that an extra 40 will come by midyear, with a target of introducing 400 more frontline healthcare workers by 2024 into the ACT Health system.

Nurses and midwives have been overworked for a long time. If there is any shining light or silver lining from the miseries of this pandemic, it is that the hard work and commitment to their profession that nurses and midwives give every day has been brought into stark focus for every Canberran.

Having these increased numbers will drastically improve patient care and occupational safety for healthcare staff. To hear the ANMF say earlier this year that the ACT has the best ratio conditions for nurses in Australia is something I am immensely proud of. But it is not enough to do better than everyone else; we should be aspiring to do the very best.

The pandemic has been incredibly challenging for our health system, just like it has been challenging for our schools, for our businesses and for every area that deals with the public. Certainly, it has been hardest of all for our nurses, who not only have been working with COVID-19 patients and their families but, in more recent months, have also experienced the very serious impacts of quarantined workers and staff shortages.

We know that recruitment is a challenge. But, at the moment, retention proves to be our bigger challenge. It is important to have both parts, but we know that, at the moment, retention proves to be our issue, and it is incumbent on all in government to focus our attention on retention, to ensure the long-term success of our commitment to nurse-to-patient ratios.

We need to recruit more nurses and midwives, but we also need to make sure that we are retaining those already working. We have to make sure that they are not burning out, that they are well supported and that they are well paid. I stress at this point that I will keenly watch EBA negotiations between the government and the ANMF that will take place next year.

I have been troubled by recent reporting that indicates there continue to be cultural challenges at the Canberra Hospital. Following our recent annual reports hearings, the health and community wellbeing standing committee, on which you and I both sit, recommended that the ACT government increase efforts across Canberra Health Services to address workplace culture, especially regarding bullying and harassment.

These headlines distress every Canberran, as they absolutely should. I, along with every other non-executive member in this place across all three parties, I suspect, will continue to hold the minister to account and work with senior bureaucrats across ACT Health throughout budget estimates and annual reports hearings to ensure the best possible outcomes for that work.

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