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Labor pledges to legislate nurse to patient ratios

Photo: ANMF Victorian branch secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick
Victoria could become the first state in Australia to enshrine nurse to patient ratios in legislation.

Opposition leader Daniel Andrews has pledged to legislate safe patient ratios if Labor wins the November 29 state election.

Nurse to patient ratios, the minimum number of qualified nurses and midwives designated on each shift to ensure high quality and safe patient care, are negotiated every four years as part of enterprise bargaining.

The current agreement, which is due to be renegotiated in 2016, requires major metropolitan hospitals to roster one nurse to four patients for day shifts and one nurse to eight patients for night shifts.

Different ratios exist at maternity units, regional hospitals, special care nurseries, aged care and emergency departments.

Mr Daniels said Labor will legislate the ratios in place in the current enterprise agreement and consult with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) about improving ratios in the future.

“The more patients that nurses manage during their shift, the less time they’re able to spend caring for your family,” he said.

“Nurses want to protect their ratios because they want to protect our loved ones.”

ANMF Victorian branch secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said under the plan, nurses and midwives will never have to fight for safe patient ratios again.

“We all remember our long and drawn out fights to maintain safe nurse/midwife patient ratios during difficult negotiations of our previous enterprise agreements,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

“In 2011-12 our fight for safe patient care took to the streets for eight months as we stood together to ensure that Victorians received the level of care they deserve in our public hospitals and aged care facilities.

“It would be an historic win for nurses and midwives to have our safe ratios enshrined in legislation, and never have to be fought for again.

“The move to legislate ratios is equally as critical as we await a full Federal Court appeal to decide whether it is permissible to actually include legally enforceable ratios in enterprise agreements.”

Labor has also pledged a $20 million Health Service Violence Prevention Fund in a bid to reduce violence and improve safety for Victorian nurses, doctors and other health workers.

The fund will pay for upgrades to hospital facilities such as building separate family and children’s waiting rooms, isolation rooms for violent patients and the installation of CCTV cameras.


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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