By Sam Mortimer
Parliament was due to debate an amendment to the Hospital and Health Boards Act, set to mandate minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals around the state.
Coincidentally, nurses and midwives were also celebrating International Nurses Day today, and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and State Health Minister Cameron Dick paid tribute to front-line medical staff across Queensland.
Premier Palaszczuk said the “historic day” was a delivery of a core election promise to improve the state’s health department, after the LNP “slashed” services during their last term in government.
“Our nurses go above the call of duty (and) they’ve always put patients first,” she said.
“This nurse-to-patient ratio puts quality care front and center, and patient safety front and center from here on in.”
The initiatives include $212 million over four years to employ 4000 more graduate nurses and midwives.
Health Minister Cameron Dick called for bipartisan support to pass the legislation, and said the states 30,000 nurses were the “lifeblood” of the Queensland health system.
“(The legislation) will mean safer care for patients in Queensland hospitals and it will mean better and more manageable workloads for our hardworking nurses.”
Queensland Nurses Union Secretary Beth Mohle said there was no current legislation regarding safe staffing levels, and the historic day would see politicians debating it in a “very real way”.
“People absolutely do respect the work that nurses do, and indeed just this week the Roy Morgan poll showed yet again that nurses are the most respected profession for 22 years in a row,” she said.
“It’s fantastic that we’re respected, but legislation gives effect to that respect.”
Queensland would be the fourth jurisdiction in the world to mandate nurse to patient ratios, alongside Victoria, California and Wales.
One of the people on the front-line at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, Nurse Wendy McAlister, said International Nurses Day recognised the often-thankless job, and celebrated the finer aspects of nursing.
“Nurses are very good at helping patients stay out of hospital,” she said.
“Yes we look after them in hospital but we also look after them out of hospital, (and) we have a big role in educating and informing people on their health choices, and how they can stay out of hospital.”
International Nurses Day was first declared on May 12, 1974 to celebrate the birthday anniversary of Florence Nightingale.