Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 3478 ..
MR MOORE: Mr Speaker, I took a question on notice from Mr Berry on 26 November 1998. His question was something along these lines: "Given the figures published by the Australian Institute of Hospital Welfare, which show there are 10 per cent fewer nursing staff in the ACT than the national average and the retention rate has dropped by 20 per cent from 1993 to 1997, what measures has the Minister taken to improve the retention rates of nurses to ensure quality of service to people of the ACT? Why is the Minister so blinkered to the disincentive created by mismanagement of the hospital by previous governments?". In that case, of course, he was talking about his own mismanagement.
The answer is as follows: The figures published by the Australian Institute of Hospital Welfare show that there are 10 per cent fewer nursing staff in the ACT than the national average and that the retention rate has dropped by 20 per cent from 1993 to 97. It is appropriate, Mr Berry, to look just a little beyond those figures to understand them.
With regard, first of all, to the 10 per cent fewer nurses, the figures used by the institute are based on the number of staff registered with the ACT Nurses Registration Board. They do not indicate the number of nurses working. A similar situation exists in all States in Australia. For example, in New South Wales nurses are asked to complete a questionnaire at the time of registration. It is not compulsory and so again it is impossible to determine accurately the number of nurses who are actually in the work force. A couple of years ago a similar questionnaire was circulated by the ACT Nurses Registration Board but there was no compulsion to provide information.
It is in New Zealand that it is compulsory to complete a questionnaire at the time of re-registration. Consequently, that country can determine the number of nurses registered and working, and registered but not working; those working in the particular specialty areas; and the number with particular qualifications, et cetera. Of course, that is what we should do for this Territory.
Concerning the stated drop in nursing enrolments between 1993 and 1997, approximately 700 nurses who were not in the nursing work force did not renew their registration when the registration annual dues were increased in 1996. This was expected. The nurses who were actually working renewed their registration.
With regard to the retention of nurses, the Canberra Hospital has an annual turnover rate of nurses of approximately 13 per cent, Mr Berry, and this compares to the Sydney metropolitan teaching hospitals which have an annual turnover rate of approximately 18 to 20 per cent. I know you will be very pleased, Mr Berry, with that figure. The reasons are to do with the measures taken by the Canberra Hospital during the past 18 months to recruit and retain nursing staff.
These include $250,000 to advertise and recruit appropriately qualified staff and experienced mental health nurses; the creation of three clinical development nurse positions specifically to assist new graduate nurses in their new role; establishing a preceptorship program to assist new employees; in partnership with the Canberra University, establishing two postgraduate nursing programs, critical care and midwifery,