MORE STAFF: Aged Care Nurses Elanor Bilbie and Suzanne Wilson are calling for improved staffing levels in aged care facilities.
MORE STAFF: Aged Care Nurses Elanor Bilbie and Suzanne Wilson are calling for improved staffing levels in aged care facilities. Scott Davis

NSW Opposition Leader promises more nurses for Tweed

HUNDREDS of nurses could be heading to the North Coast to improve critical under-staffing in regional hospitals, if Labor wins the next state election.

NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has committed to deliver better nurse to patient ratios in regional health districts, including The Tweed Hospital and Murwillumbah District Hospital.

The announcement would mean a change from one nurse looking after five patients on the afternoon shift at both Tweed and Murwillumbah hospitals, to one nurse responsible for four patients, while the morning shift at Murwillumbah would also result in one nurse to four patients, instead of the current one nurse to five patients ratio.

NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA) General Secretary Brett Holmes said increasing the staffing numbers would have a significant difference for patient care, particularly in regional NSW.

" (This) is a giant leap in the right direction for patient safety,” Mr Holmes said.

"Under this system, the health of country communities will be made a priority and for the first time, emergency departments and other speciality areas will have a new, reliable ratios system with a guaranteed minimum ratio on every shift.”

Mr Foley said it was important regional centres had proper support for their health care.

"Nurses and midwives do extraordinary work but were under severe pressure,” he said.

"Nurse to patient ratios reduce errors, improve the amount of time each nurse can spend in patient care, create better workplaces, reduce stress and lead to higher retention of nurses and midwives.”

NSWNMA launched a campaign earlier this year to call on the government to create mandatory nurse to patient ratios.

"Ratios will save lives - evidence proves it,” Mr Holmes said. "It's a reliable system that meets the needs of patients and will put NSW on the right track to a more sustainable health system.

"The difference between a nurse caring for four patients in a ward and five patients can be a matter of life or death. International research shows that better ratios result in fewer patient complications and fewer deaths.”

But Tweed MP Geoff Provest said he believed placing a ratio system on nursing numbers could curtail the excellent service already being delivered.

"We're continually monitoring the level of services, particularly in our Tweed Hospital, and we're currently appropriately resourced,” Mr Provest said.

"The appropriate resources will be applied, whether there's a formula set with the nurses' union, which could be workable or unworkable. I have full faith in our staff to appropriately resource our hospital.”