Women's and Children's Hospital nurses and midwives take stop-work action

30 October 2019

Ensuring staffing calculations account for all newborn babies in their next enterprise agreement is a key driver behind industrial action being held by nurses and midwives at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital today.

Currently, public sector staffing considerations only account for a small percentage of all newborns in post-natal wards. In most cases, newborns are not considered in staffing calculations even when a new mother may need extra assistance to provide total care for her baby.

Closing this unsafe staffing gap is one of many patient safety measures proposed by nurses and midwives and rejected by the State Government over months of enterprise bargaining negotiations.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) says bargaining claims sought by South Australia’s public sector nurses and midwives fall into three major areas:

  • Safe staffing and skills mix to meet the needs of patients now and in the future;
  • Ensuring the availability of enough nurses and midwives in the future, given 50 per cent of the workforce is expected to retire in the coming years; and
  • Attraction and retention of nurses and midwives through better incentives and improved safety and working conditions.

The stop-work action has been carefully planned during a double-staffed handover period at the hospital to ensure continuity of care to women, children and families during the one-hour protest.

ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM says understandably nurses and midwives at the State’s major maternity hospital are particularly concerned at State Government’s lack of commitment to ensuring the safe care of all babies.

“Across our public health system, nurses and midwives are staffed to provide care for a new mother, but not a newborn whose mother is physically unable to provide her infant with total care,” Ms Dabars.

“Currently, staffing calculations only account for newborn babies who meet very specific criteria, but who looks after all the other babies if their mothers require care or if they need help extra help looking after their newborn?” she asks.

She says the State’s nurses and midwives want the State Government to commit to ensuring all babies are counted and provided with the midwifery care needed.

“There are a range of reasons why a new mother may be unable to assume total care of her newborn child. And without enough staff to care for both mother and child in such circumstances, midwifery staff can be stretched far too thin.”

The industrial stand follows similar action at the Lyell McEwin Hospital and Riverland region on Monday, and Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre, Glenside Health Services and the Clare region yesterday.

Nursing and midwifery staff at 100+ other State public health care sites and services will follow suit in the hope the State Government will reconsider its position on critical measures that will impact the quality of health care in South Australia.

“Nurses and midwives across the board are uniting over measures that will ensure our public health services are safely staffed, adequately resourced and offer working conditions that attract and retain people in these caring professions.”

“It takes a lot to get nurses and midwives standing outside hospitals calling for action—so the mere fact they are coming out in such numbers conveys a strong message to this Government.”

The 2016 enterprise agreement for public sector nurses and midwives expired last month.