Healthcare workers from Leeton Hospital rallied outside the emergency department on Wednesday to call out the NSW Government's lack of action and prioritisation of safe staffing in public hospitals.
The nurses and midwife, the only full time midwife employed at the hospital, are asking the state government to introduce nurse to patient ratios like those that exist in Queensland, Victoria and the ACT, and mandate safe patient care.
Matthew Doherty from the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association said that nurses and midwives from Leeton District Hospital were frustrated that once again their calls for urgent safe staffing had been ignored, despite the widespread evidence of short staffing.
"For more than a decade we have been calling for mandated rations to be introduced in NSW, one nurse to three patients in our emergency departments, pediatrics units, and one to four in medical and surgical wards across the state."
However, NSW nurses are the lowest paid across all of the Australian states and territories, making it difficulty to attract full time and agency nurse to work there
This, in addition to the regional nature of Leeton, makes it extremely hard to attract new workers to the hospital.
Currently Leeton Hospital does not have a full time doctor employed, but rather a short roster of on call doctors that are not always available.
On top of this, the hospital has just one midwife and is 11 nurses short.
Often nurses step into the role of doctors if there is not an on call doctor available, drawing them away from other non critical patients requiring care.
"The NSW government has the power to fix this," said Mr Doherty.
"They can improve on patient care here immediately by implementing shift by shift ratios here in NSW."
Interestingly, recently published research from academic publication The Lancet has shown that the NSW government would actually save money by increasing staff to patient ratios, provide better healthcare to patients and would boost local economies.
The Lancet found substantial evidence that indicated patient outcomes are more favorable in hospitals with better nurse staffing.
Nurses Union Member and Registered Nurse Kerry Maguire said that the staff were in crisis and if nothing was done soon, the healthcare system would collapse.
"After what we have been through in this past year, the treatment we are experiencing is beyond appalling," Mrs Maguire said.
"We cannot continue to work to a high quality under conditions such as these, it is very upsetting."
The nurses are rallying for a pay rise of 1.04 per cent, which they hope will attract healthcare professionals from other states and territories across the country. However, this rise would still pale in comparison to the loading rates other states offer, like Queensland which offers 35 per cent loading in comparison to 29 per cent in NSW.
Night duty loading rates have also not gone up in over 30 years, many nurses stating that the 15 per cent loading rate was not worth the work involved.
"The staff are rundown and people will continue to get sicker and sicker," Mr Doherty said.
"What we are seeking is not excessive."
"It is to make hospitals in NSW safe for everyone involved."
Member for Murray Helen Dalton said that a pay raise to nurses was critical.
"We urgently need to boost nurses pay and properly fund our rural hospitals," Mrs Dalton said.
"Why would nurses come to rural NSW when they get paid more and have proper staff support in both Victoria and Queensland."
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