Under the title ‘putting patients first’ the Andrews Labor Government’s 2022 budget puts health at the centre of its spending over the coming years, with a plan that includes educating, employing and supporting the wellbeing of a further 5000 nurses and midwives.
Among the workforce announcements made on Tuesday 3 May are $59 million to fund a minimum of 2250 registered undergraduate student nurses (RUSONs) over two years and $9.8 million to support 75 registered undergraduate student midwives (RUSOMs) .
Responding to the announcement, ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said, ‘Mainstreaming Victoria’s trailblazing nursing and midwifery student employment model is a smart investment and will build and strengthen our workforce capacity in the short and longer term.’
RUSONs and RUSOMs
The RUSON/RUSOM model involves the paid employment of second and third -year students in hospitals – above legislated nurse/midwife patient ratios – helping them to develop a better understanding of and connection with health services, colleagues and their chosen professions. The model is aimed at ensuring our future nursing and midwifery nursing workforce is supported to be work-ready.
‘It’s particularly important for regional universities and health services to embed this employment program locally so that more students who learn in the regions stay working in the regions,’ Ms Fitzpatrick added.
The budget allocation of an additional $2.48 million over four years for the free, confidential and independent Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria (NMHPV) will ensure there is continued support for nurses and midwives post-pandemic.
‘Responsibility for the pandemic’s heavy lifting has taken a toll on nurses’ and midwives’ health and wellbeing and the NMHPV is critical to ensuring they are supported as we are now three years into the pandemic,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.
Additional funding has also been secured to implement midwifery-led initiatives to improve health services’ ability to fill rosters and provide birthing and postnatal services.
Home-based and virtual care
The budget’s $698 million package to expand the Better at Home program – better known to nurses as hospital in the home – is an efficient way to enhance patient flow in our hospitals. The package includes funding to expand a pilot model between health services providing transitional care in home-like settings while patients await National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) packages. Funding is also provided to pilot a virtual specialist clinic model that enables Aboriginal Victorians to access care on Country.
‘This isn’t a ‘home alone’ program; to be in a hospital-in-the-home program you will need a nurse, and that means the nurse-patient ratios and skill that mix patients would have had in hospital must follow,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said. She added that ANMF would be ensuring that where in-the-home services are provided from current ratioed inpatient areas, the ratio and skill mix must follow.
The government previously announced it would also spend $21 million on expanding its successful virtual emergency department program – initiated by Northern Health in 2020 – across the state.
A number of the very welcome budget initiatives will require ongoing investment in the workforce and ANMF has approached the Andrews Government for a further financial package to recognise nurses’ and midwives’ vital life-saving work that ensures our health system continues to meet record patient demand.
‘We look forward to ongoing discussions with the Andrews Government and landing funding to support and recognise nurses and midwives who continue to do the pandemic’s heavy lifting,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.
ANMF welcomes additional measures including:
- $146 million to replace and refurbish public regional aged care facilities, including 36 beds at Camperdown, 72 beds at Mansfield District hospital and 38 beds at Orbost; as well as planned upgrades at Bright and Heywood.
- $800,000 to design and plan a new 60-bed public residential aged care facility at the Mornington Centre (30 aged persons mental health (APMH) beds and a 30‑bed specialist dementia unit).
- $196 million to replace and extend the public mental health facility in Shepparton.
- $29.9 million for Victoria’s 180 public residential aged care facilities (approximately 5000 beds) to continue providing high-quality care, including mental health care.
- New alcohol and other drug hubs in regional Shepparton, Ballarat, Bendigo and Traralgon.
- Continued funding to implement the mental health royal commission recommendations.
- $36 million towards a new 30-bed alcohol and other drug residential facility in Mildura.
- Additional funding towards stage 2 refurbishment works at Thomas Embling Hospital.