NSW Nationals fail to stand up for their public hospitals

Tuesday 18th June, 2013

The 2013 NSW National Party annual conference - held in Bathurst on Friday and Saturday 14-15 June - has failed to stand up for rural and regional public hospitals and community health services and has let down country nurses, midwives and patients, the NSWNMA said today.

The NSWNMA was commenting on the National Party conference's failure, late last week, to support the improvement and extension of mandated minimum nurse-to-patient ratios to seriously ill children, emergency departments, high dependency units and rural hospitals and multipurpose services, and safer nursing and midwifery staffing arrangements in community health services.

NSWNMA representatives from 16 of the 19 National Party-held state electorates were in Bathurst for the conference and to brief their local MPs on the issue and developments in the campaign to ensure rural and regional hospitals are treated equally, in terms of nursing ratios, with the big Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong hospitals. Representatives from the other three electorates - Murray-Darling, Oxley and Port Macquarie - were not free to attend.

Formal invitations to a briefing on Friday were issued to the 16 MPs, but only three of the 16 MPs responded to the invitation and contacted their local NSWNMA representative.

Electorate - MP - Number of nurses and midwives in electorate (rounded) - Response
  • Ballina - Don Page - 600 - Did not respond to briefing invitation.
  • Barwon - Kevin Humphries  - 700 - Mr Humphries did not respond to briefing invitation.
  • Bathurst - Paul Toole - 740 - Did not respond to briefing invitation and said very little to local nurses.
  • Burrinjuck - Katrina Hodgkinson - 500  - Did respond to briefing invitation and had extensive conversation on issue with rep.
  • Clarence - Chris Gulaptis  - 600 - Did not respond to briefing invitation.
  • Coffs Harbour - Andrew Fraser - 700 - Did not respond to briefing invitation, but did block and ignore the nurses outside the conference when he did encounter the nurses.
  • Dubbo - Troy Grant - 900 - Was highly visible around the conference, but no effort to meet or talk with the nurses or the local NSWNMA rep from his electorate.
  • Lismore - Thomas George - 1200- After advising rep he would come out for briefing, Mr George did not come back.
  • Monaro - John Barilaro - 330 - Did not respond to briefing invitation.
  • Myall Lakes - Stephen Bromhead - 730 - Rep says Mr Bromhead did not respond to ratios briefing invitation.
  • Murrumbidgee - Adrian Piccoli - 580 - Mr Piccoli did acknowledge rep, but did not come for briefing as invited.
  • Northern Tablelands - Adam Marshall - 630 - Mr Marshall did talk with rep in response to briefing invitation.
  • Orange - Andrew Gee - 1200 - Did speak at length with the nurses and local rep from his electorate.
  • Tamworth - Kevin Anderson - 950 - Spoke with rep, but did not discuss ratios and did not respond to briefing invitation.
  • Tweed - Geoff Provest - 830 - Asked for the rep to put the facts in an email to him.
  • Upper Hunter - George Souris - 530 - Did not respond to briefing invitation and made no effort to engage with nurses or local NSWNMA rep.

Politicians over-rule views of rank-and-file National Party members

NSWNMA general secretary, Brett Holmes, said the Nationals conference had a chance to stand up for safer patient care in regional and rural hospitals and community health services, but failed.

"Many rank-and-file conference delegates did express support for the proposed safer nursing levels throughout the state, but were over-ruled by the politicians, who have caved in to the Liberal Party premier, treasurer and health minister on the issue.

"The state National Party leader and deputy premier, Andrew Stoner, even went as far as to say, on ABC radio, that country hospitals shouldn't have the same staffing ratios as the big Sydney hospitals: 'Now this argument that country hospitals ought to have the same as the peak city hospitals is like comparing apples and oranges. There are conditions that are not treated - you have different complex ranges of treatments that are not done in many country hospitals that are done in places like Royal North Shore.' (Andrew Stoner on ABC Central West, Mornings with Angela Owens, 14 June 2013)

NSW nurse union to intensify regional campaign to counter misinformation

"Mr Stoner completely misses the point. The fact is a patient having a hip or knee replacement in a regional hospital like Goulburn, Bathurst or Grafton is only allocated five hours nursing per day, while the same patient at Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital or Newcastle's John Hunter has a mandated minimum of six nursing hours allocated per day. That is not fair.

"National Party Legislative Councillor, Melinda Pavey, is also the Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Health and she circulated to delegates a document that continued the state Government's misleading campaign about nurse staffing in NSW public hospitals. You would think a person in her position, especially a National Party person in her position, would be fighting tooth and nail to get country hospitals treated equally with city hospitals.

"Even those few MPs who contacted the NSWNMA representative from their electorate didn't achieve anything effective at the conference on behalf of rural and regional nurses, midwives and patients. We will now be intensifying our campaign in the electorates held by the National Party, to counter the misinformation spread by Mr Stoner and Ms Pavey," Mr Holmes said.


The Statewide Ratios put patient safety first campaign was launched in Sydney on Tuesday, 19 March. A record 214 NSWNMA branches, representing more than 30,000 public-sector nurses and midwives throughout NSW, have endorsed the NSWNMA's ratios and wages claim, which was then formally presented to the State Government, through the Health Ministry, on March 11.

The current Public Health System Nurses & Midwives (State) Award expires on June 30 this year.

A key feature of the 2013 claim is guaranteed, safer nursing and midwifery levels for seriously ill children, emergency departments, high dependency units and rural hospitals and multipurpose services, and safer nursing and midwifery staffing arrangements in community health services.

The claim also includes two 2.5 per cent per year payrises, which will provide the majority of experienced, full-time nurses and midwives with a payrise of more than $70.00 per week, or more than $3800.00 per year, by July 2014.

In mid-May the State Government formally responded to the NSWNMA claim with an unacceptable offer for a new wages and conditions agreement.

At the NSWNMA's bimonthly Committee of Delegates meeting, on 21 May, workplace delegates from around the State rejected the inadequate offer.

They are angry the O'Farrell Government is:

  • refusing to extend mandated minimum nurse-to-patient ratios to seriously ill children, emergency departments, high dependency units and rural hospitals and multipurpose services, and provide safer nursing and midwifery staffing arrangements in community health services; and
  • seeking to further discount the annual 2.5 per cent payrise to absorb the scheduled 0.25 per cent rise in compulsory employer superannuation from 1 July 2013.

The state Government has in turn told the NSWNMA it will now get the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (NSW IRC) to make a new pay and conditions award for nurses and midwives, based on this sub-standard offer. Dictatorial industrial relations laws introduced by the O'Farrell Government, since its election in March 2011, have significantly reduced the independence of the NSW IRC in these matters.