The unexpected baby boom in several health services has caused significant challenges for maternity services and the midwifery workforce. Midwives are again under considerable pressure and are concerned for the women and babies in their care.
To address the challenges, which we believe may go on for a number of months, ANMF has been meeting with experienced midwifery members, health services, Safer Care Victoria, and the Victorian Department of Health advancing immediate and longer-term initiatives.
We have strongly advocated for the implementation of centralised resourcing strategies that will reduce the pressure on our members and provide quality care for women, babies and families.
These will also see maternity services across the state working as a whole rather than individual health services.
These strategies can be implemented in the short-term and will have a long-term impact. We are confident the department will make some quick decisions to address the workload issues.
Making the nightshift postnatal ratio the same as the morning and afternoon shift will provide extra midwives in every ward across the state. Part-time midwives may be more inclined to increase their hours if they know they will be well staffed and supported at work. Our proposal that health services remove the restrictions on the minimum number of hours a permanent part-time midwife can work will also assist to fill those extra shifts.
In addition to the improved night shift postnatal ratios, we have proposed an additional appropriately skilled nurse or midwife to assist with the care of unwell neonates on the ward.
We are also seeking additional midwifery support in the birth suites of Maternity Capability Level 4, 5 and 6 services to ensure the safe care of high-risk women.
We want these services, if they haven’t already, to implement a fully funded registered undergraduate student of midwifery (RUSOM) model. With approximately 30 of these programs implemented throughout Victoria we are receiving positive feedback from the RUSOMs and those they are working alongside.
Amongst other initiatives we have recommended the scrapping of the stressful text messages to staff seeking backfill for unplanned leave which is causing midwives anxiety on their days off. Instead, we believe a dedicated midwifery allocations officer will have a much better ability to address staff shortfalls and speak directly with midwives.
Private and not-for-profit aged care bargaining begins
The rich information in the aged care royal commission final report and its recommendations will provided the basis of ANMF’s next round of private and not-for-profit aged care enterprise bargaining negotiations.
The royal commission found the current ‘aged care system has a workforce whose dedication to care is impressive and worthy of more praise and reward.’ It also said both the Federal Government and aged care providers had a responsibility to lift the employment conditions and the status of aged care workers. ANMF agrees on both counts.
Our first enterprise bargaining campaign starts with our 1000 Japara members at 33 residential aged care facilities across metropolitan and regional Victoria. Their log of claims seeks improved staffing to meet the minimum level recommended by the royal commission. This is 200 care minutes per day per resident – 40 minutes delivered by a registered nurse, 60 minutes by enrolled nurses and 100 minutes by personal care workers.
And we are seeking pay parity for nurses and personal care workers with their public sector counterparts. Time to care and respectful wages. It’s not too much to ask.
The recent COVID-19 outbreaks at two Melbourne private residential aged care facilities were quickly contained. The response on the ground showed the lessons of 2020 had been learned.
Public sector nurses were swiftly brought in to implement and support infection control, set up donning and doffing areas and replace furloughed staff. Thank you to all of the nurses who assisted to manage this critical outbreak.
The uncertainty of the pandemic continues. There has been little time for Victorian nurses, midwives and personal care workers to regroup and recharge. I encourage all members to look out for each other and take advantage of the confidential health and wellbeing opportunities offered through the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria.