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  • Labor pledges nurse to patient ratios for Queensland

    Author: Karen Keast

Queensland will legislate nurse to patient ratios under a Labor state government.

Opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has pledged to legislate safe patient ratios in public hospitals if Labor wins the January 31 election.

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Under its Nursing Guarantee policy, Labor will fund an extra 400 nursing positions at a cost of $110 million over four years.

The policy also outlines a plan to establish a benchmark ratio of one nurse per four patients in acute wards during day shifts and one nurse to eight patients overnight, as a starting point for this year’s new EB9 enterprise agreement with nurses and midwives.

Labor will also legislate in its first term for safe nurse to patient ratios and workload provisions to ensure patient safety and quality health care.

Ms Palaszczuk said Labor will rebuild health services slashed under the Newman Government, which cut more than 4800 positions from hospitals and health services including about 1800 full-time equivalent nursing and midwifery positions.

She said evidence showed mandated nurse to patient ratios improved quality of care and resulted in better health outcomes for patients, reduced re-admission rates and reduced post-operative mortality rates.

“The additional cost of ensuring appropriate nurse bedside hours is recouped through the reduced costs of better service delivery and better patient outcomes,” she said.

Queensland Nurses’ Union (QNU) acting secretary Des Elder said no legislation currently exists to govern how many patients can be allocated to a single nurse or midwife.

“A commitment to install safe nurse to patient ratios provides a ray of sunshine after three bleak years of hospital and health service job cuts in Queensland,” he said.

“The nurses and midwives who have survived the LNP health cull have told us they are overworked, fearful for patient safety, tired and demoralised.

“The ALP’s announcement they will introduce nurse ratio legislation if elected will no doubt brighten their day.”

The newly elected Labor government in Victoria has also vowed to enshrine nurse to patient ratios in legislation.

The Queensland announcement comes after renowned US patient safety researcher Dr Linda Aiken visited the state in December to discuss her research, which shows nurse staffing levels contribute to a ‘seven-fold difference’ in patient mortality rates between hospitals.

As part of its nursing policy announcement, Labor has pledged to create a Queensland Bureau of Health Statistics to publicly report key indicators of public and private hospitals and health services, and it will also review the role of the Health Ombudsman.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the government has already pledged another 2000 health workers.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords