NURSES say they’re overworked, yet still unable to give the level of treatment required and have called for mandated nurse-to-patient ratios.
Orange Health Service staff gathered in front of the hospital on Tuesday afternoon to voice their support for ratios and gather petition signatures, supported by the Orange Country Labor branch.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association has called for ratios of one to one for resuscitation and intensive care patients, one to three in emergency and one to four in general medical and surgical wards.
One of the association’s Orange delegates, Grace Garretty, said some patients could be left in their own faeces while nursing staff attended to more medically-urgent cases.
“I don’t have the staff to help me – if someone needs really important antibiotics straight away, you can’t change someone, you can’t be with five people at the same time,” she said.
READ MORE:Phil Donato calls for one to four ratio
“I thought I could come into nursing and help everyone and you almost need to do the bare minimum just to stay above water, which is horrible.”
NSW Nurses and Midwives Association mental health branch secretary Fraser McLelland, who also works at the Bloomfield campus, said staffing was worked out based on patient numbers at midnight, meaning extra admissions were not catered for.
“There was a ward with 12 people over 65 with dementia and complicated mental health problems and they needed hands-on care to get showered, get dressed, to take their medications,” he said.
“We’ve only got three staff on and two were moved over to [another unit] so you’re left with one member of staff to look after 12 patients – it’s just not safe, it’s not fair.”
He said an adjustment to the ratio would provide up to five nurses rather than three.
“Hopefully the Royal Commission’s [into aged care] terms of reference will include care in the public sector, as well as in the private residential sector,” he said.
“It will help us no doubt.”
Opposition Leader Luke Foley addressed the major rally in Sydney, committing to ratios in 50 hospitals across the state, including Orange, Bathurst, Dubbo, Mudgee and Cowra.
Country Labor branch member and community aged care nurse Sue Duchnaj said nurses were burnt out.
“They’re doing the best they can, they forego toilet breaks and lunch breaks just to keep up,” she said.
“A lot of people think in aged care residential the night shift is the easy shift, but it’s the worst shift – people think they’re all asleep at night, but that’s when everything happens.”
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