Speaking on a Bill | Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Amendment Bill 2018

Ms VAGHELA: I rise to speak on the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Amendment Bill 2018. I am pleased to speak on this bill, as I come from a healthcare background, not as a nurse but working in the lab in a hospital. Victoria’s healthcare system and services are world-class, and the Andrews Labor government has always given priority to healthcare systems and hospitals. Being a former health minister our Premier, Daniel Andrews, understands the importance of a quality healthcare system. Former Minister for Health Jill Hennessy has done fantastic work, and that will be continued by our current Minister for Health, Jenny Mikakos. I feel happy to have a part in this amendment bill, as it will make a difference in the quality of care received by patients in Victoria. There would not be many whose lives have not been touched directly or indirectly by nurses or midwives. I am a mum, and I know that the birth time of a baby is meant to be a time of joy. During this time you absolutely want to make sure that the new mum and the baby are being looked after and taken care of. Usually for a first-time mum, and especially for a migrant new mum, it is quite daunting not knowing how it will go, and if the midwives are there it gives them peace of mind. I have worked in a hospital during night shifts and walked through the emergency department many times. I have watched patients waiting there in varying degrees of pain. We do not want our family members, our friends, our neighbours or our colleagues to suffer and wait there in pain; we want them to be looked after by a nurse in a timely manner. Labor, prior to the 2014 election, made a commitment that if elected it would enshrine nurse-to-patient and midwife-to-patient ratios in law. For Labor it is all about commitment and delivering on the commitment. As a result, in 2015 we legislated the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Act 2015 to deliver on that commitment and enshrine nurse and midwife-to-patient ratios in law. We also made a commitment that we would consider and introduce improvements to this ratio, and now we are delivering on that commitment as well. The amendments to the act reflect a continuous improvement process. Firstly, the bill improves a number of existing ratios. It removes the unfair rounding method from priority shifts. Victorians who are fighting cancer, women who are giving birth and our state sickest babies will get the care that they need with the Andrews Labor government through new, stronger nurse-to-patient and midwife-to-patient ratios. Ratios will be increased to provide more nurses and midwives to care for Victorians in palliative care, birthing suites and special care nurseries as well as during peak times in emergency department resuscitation cubicles. Victorians suffering from stroke and other diseases like blood disease and cancer will have new ratios introduced in those areas as well. There will be new ratios introduced in acute stroke units, haematology wards and acute inpatient oncology. Ratios are important to protect patient safety. There is evidence that proves a strong link between nursing staffing levels and patient outcomes. Appropriate levels of nursing staff reduce the risk of mortality in surgical patients. The changes will see an additional 600 nurses and midwives employed, and this will be backed by funding of approximately $250 million. In addition the Andrews Labor government will also invest $50 million for creating a Nursing and Midwifery Workforce Development Fund. This will help in creating training opportunities and scholarships. The existing program will be expanded to employ 400 enrolled nurses over the next four years. One hundred of these positions will be available to TAFE graduates—TAFE, which was rescued and reopened by the Andrews Labor government. Registered nurses, enrolled nurses and registered midwives dedicate their professional lives to caring for the state’s ill, injured and dying patients, as well as caring for women in pregnancy and birth. This bill demonstrates the Andrews government’s commitment to Victoria’s public health system and its respect for the vital role that nurses and midwives play. It is about commitments and delivering on the commitments, not cuts and closures. I commend the bill to the house.