SYDNEY — Thousands of nurses and midwives rallied outside New South Wales state Parliament here March 31, calling on the government to adopt fixed nurse-to-patient ratios. The statewide 24-hour strike by members of the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association was the second in six weeks.
“What do we want? Ratios! 1-to-3 in ED [Emergency]; 1-to-4 on the floor!” nurses and midwives chanted, banging bedpans and waving many hand-painted signs as they marched toward Parliament. Rallies took place in over 20 regional centers across the state, as union members defied an Industrial Relations Commission order banning the strike.
Some city hospitals have a nurse-to-patient ratio of 1-to-4, but in working-class neighborhoods it’s 1-to-5 and worse in rural areas. Paul Hayes, a nurse from Yass District Hospital in a rural part of the state, told the rally, “In the regions staff are burnt out” with more work but no “increase in staff or salary.”
“Ratios are the most important question,” Kelvin, a hospital nurse and union member here who requested his last name not be used, told this reporter. Strikers also demand better pay and conditions. He said that differences in nurse-to-patient ratios depend on where hospitals are located. “All patients deserve the same quality treatment. We should all be on the same platform, regardless of where we live.”
Nicole Jerome, a midwife from Campbelltown Hospital, told the rally that in maternity wards there is one midwife to six women, and the babies are not counted. “But they still need care,” she said, “so effectively it is a 1-to-12 ratio.” A large contingent of young midwives joined the rally, with signs saying “Mums matter, babies count!”