MORE than 100 nurses and widwives from throughout the Hastings and Manning areas assembled at Pier One at Port Macquarie Panthers on Wednesday to demand the NSW government provide mandated nursing staffing numbers.
The protest also highlighted the need for equality of staffing numbers in rural and metropolitan areas.
The main protest took place in Sydney with staff from 160 hospitals from all over NSW joining in via video link.
The protesters at Pier One were drawn from a wide variety of professional backgrounds and included hospital staff as well as community health representatives.
Ken Procter is the president of the Port Macquarie branch of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA).
“People might recall that some time ago we commenced a campaign to demand better staffing ratios from the government,” Mr Procter said.
“At the time the member for Port Macquarie, Leslie Williams, said that our award was not about ratios. It’s misleading to say that it isn’t about ratios, so part of what we’re doing today is seeking a clarification of the terms of our award.”
Mr Procter said the current award does not guarantee appropriate staffing levels for community health staff.
“At the moment there is no way for community health nurses to be able to do their job properly,” Mr Procter said. “There are also no ratios in paediatric care.
“Our current campaign show the importance of ratios in paediatric care because it’s obviously quite different to treating an adult.”
Claims that Wednesday’s strike was detrimental to patient care were inaccurate, NSWNMA branch secretary Linda Binskin said.
“Many of our members have come here on their rostered day off,” Ms Binskin said. “There are also staff here from community health who are here on their lunch break, as well as staff who have travelled up from Taree on their day off.”
Mr Procter said that community concerns about patient safety were at the forefront of the protest.
“The government and Ms Williams will say that we may have caused patients harm, or their families to experience distress today,” Mr Procter said. “We have been forced into this measure and we have still ensured the minimum appropriate level of staff.
“We can’t just be thinking about patient care today or tomorrow. We have to think about patient care for years into the future.
“We’re not going to stand for unsafe standards.”