Victorian patients to benefit from more nurses and midwives

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch)

Victorian patients and aged care residents will benefit from the Andrews Government second tranche of improved nurse/midwife patient ratios in public hospitals and public aged care facilities.

If passed the changes will see more nurses and midwives across the state in medical and surgical wards, birthing suites, post-natal wards, special care nursery, geriatric evaluation management, short stay units, rehabilitation, and residential aged care.

The government has introduced the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Act 2015 amendment bill 2020 today.

The bill fulfils the Andrews Government 2018 election promise to further improve ratios delivering an extra 542 nurses and midwives into public health services.

It will be the government’s second ratio amendment bill in the current term. The first tranche requires an extra 611 additional nurses and midwives for improvements being phased in each year from 2019 to 2023.

The proposed amendments will be phased in over two years concurrently with the 2019 amendments.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: ‘The Safe Patient Care Act 2015 was about legislating a mandated minimum number of nurses and midwives every shift so our public hospitals and public aged care facilities were never understaffed.

‘These proposed amendments demonstrate the Andrews Government understands you can’t set and forget nursing and midwifery staffing levels.

‘These proposed improvements are responsive to changes in care and demand.

‘They also mean the government is listening to nurses and midwives about the time they need to provide safe, quality care to Victoria’s public hospital patients and public aged care residents,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.

It is almost 20 years since Victoria became the first place in the southern hemisphere to secure ratios as the mechanism to ensure hospitals are staffed safely every shift.

Nurse/midwife patient ratios were initially part of a decisionhanded down by the then Australian Industrial Relations Commission on 31 August 2000. The decision was the result of private arbitration that resolved the 2000 public sector nurses and midwives enterprise agreement and halted Victoria’s critical nursing shortage crisis.

Under the proposed amendment the ratio changes in 2022 will be:

  • an extra nurse on night shift in medical and surgical wards in the state’s busiest hospitals, short stay units and geriatric evaluation beds.
  • 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 afternoon shifts and night shift in rehabilitation wards. (Previously if the bed number was not easily divisible by the ratio, management could round down the number of nurses. Now the number of nurses must always be round up.)
  • Warrnambool Base Hospital’s medical and surgical ward ratios will improve with additional nurses on all shifts when it moves from a level 3 to a level 2 hospital.
  • an extra senior nurse after hours in many level 4 hospitals.
  • a review of all hospital classifications.

The proposed changes for 2023 will be:

  • an extra nurse on night shift for geriatric evaluation beds and level 3 medical and surgical units.
  • removal of the 50 per cent rule in residential aged care on morning shift.

Protecting new mothers, babies and children

The amendment bill also proposes to legislate the triple qualification requirements to be a maternal child health nurse.

For decades Victorian maternal and child health nurses have been registered as a nurse and midwife and also held a postgraduate diploma in child and family health.

Ms Fitzpatrick said: ‘Protecting the triple MCH nurse qualification is key to maintaining the high standard Victorians expect, require and receive from their maternal and child health nursing service.

‘These highly qualified nurses must have a deep understanding of nursing, midwifery, post-natal experience, neo-natal illness, developmental risk factors and also understand how to identify and refer at-risk families so they get the support they need.’

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