Main Content

1100 plus extra nurses and midwives for public health services

1100 plus extra nurses and midwives for public health services

Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy

Victoria’s public health system will gain more than 1100 extra nurses and midwives under a re-elected Andrews Government.

The additional nurses and midwives will come through improved and new nurse/midwife to patient ratios.

Premier Daniel Andrews’ latest announcement will see more nurses and midwives in medical and surgical wards, birthing suites, postnatal wards, special care nursery, geriatric evaluation management, short stay units, rehabilitation, and residential aged care.

Promise to legislate mental health staffing levels

A re-elected Andrews Government has also promised to legislate the current mental health services nursing staffing levels contained in the 2016 enterprise agreement.

Premier Daniel Andrews said:

 ‘As far as we’ve come I’ll never forget what a nurse at the Royal Children’s Hospital once told me: “Every day you walk out having given everything you’ve got, but never feeling you did everything you could”.

‘She was referring to the small things, those extra minutes spent caring for a patient, the extra time spent listening to their family and even if nothing could be done making sure those last moments are as comfortable as they can be.

‘Ratios matter. They matter to safety, they matter to job satisfaction. Fundamentally, ratios are a recognition that if you are in pain, if you’re sick, if you’re scared, each of us deserves to be taken care of,’ Premier Andrews said.

There will also be additional after hours co-ordinators in our regional hospitals with maternity and emergency services. Warrnambool Hospital will become a level 2 hospital which will mean improved ratios in medical and surgical wards.

These improvements are in addition to abolishing the 50% rule and requiring hospitals to round up.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy said ‘This investment will mean an extra set of eyes and extra pair of hands to care for some of our most precious patients.’

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) welcomed the proposed improvements which addressed a significant number of new areas ANMF members had been seeking improvements.

Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: ‘This announcement demonstrates the Andrews Government is listening to nurses and midwives and respects their valuable work.

‘You can’t set and forget legislated nurse/midwife patient ratios, the government must be willing and able to respond to the changing needs of patients and health services.

‘We look forward to working with a re-elected Andrews Government to draft and implement a second round of legislation to ensure we have more nurses and midwives where they are needed most.

‘Mental health nurses will no longer have to fight for safe staffing levels for their patients in an enterprise agreement,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.

The latest proposed improvements will see an extra 542 nurses and midwives. This is in addition to the 611 nurses and midwives already planned through new and improved ratios contained in draft legislation passed in the lower house in September. The amendment bill was introduced into, but not debated in the upper house due to 20 Liberal and some minor party MPs voting against an extension of time after participating in lengthy delays and filibustering on the final sitting day.

‘This is an extraordinary announcement which means we can get on with the introduction of the first tranche of improvements as soon as the bill is passed and the government can get on with drafting the legislation for the second tranche,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.

An Andrews Government will also establish a $50 million nursing and midwifery workforce development fund to make sure health services can retain, recruit and educate the nurses and midwives needed to fill the new and improved ratios.

The ANMF will continue to work on improving public sector staffing levels in day oncology units, dialysis units, hospital in the home and medical imaging and the removal of the distinction between low and high care in residential aged care.

Summary of promised changes

The new announcement will see an extra 542 nurses and midwives in public health services. Changes include:

  • current nursing levels in the mental health public sector enterprise agreement will be legislated
  • an extra nurse on night shift in medical and surgical wards in the state’s busiest hospitals, short stay units and geriatric evaluation
  • an extra nurse/midwife on night shift in post-natal wards and special care nurseries
  • an extra midwife on afternoon and night shift in birthing suites
  • removal of the 50 per cent rule in residential aged care on morning and afternoon shifts and night shift in rehabilitation wards
  • Warrnambool Hospital will become a level 2 hospital
  • a review of all hospital classifications by June 2022.

The already drafted amendment Bill for an extra 611 nurses and midwives will be introduced in the first session of an Andrews Government second term. These changes will be phased in over five years and include:

  • new ratios introduced in acute stroke, haematology and acute inpatient oncology wards
  • improved ratios in palliative care, birthing suites, special care nurseries, and emergency department resuscitation cubicles
  • the removal of the 50 per cent rule. Health services must always round up the number of nurses or midwives when the number of beds is not easily divisible. Applies to medical and surgical, emergency departments, coronary care, high dependency units, operating theatres, post anaesthetic recovery rooms, palliative care, geriatric evaluation management beds, special care nurseries, neonatal intensive care, antenatal and postnatal. Residential aged care morning and afternoon shift and rehabilitation morning and afternoon shifts.
  • an amendment to clause 27 to include midwives in special care nurseries that have less than four cots.

Authorised by Lisa Fitzpatrick, Secretary, ANMF (Vic Branch), 535 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne VIC 3000