The Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Act (the Act) took effect from 23 December 2015, with the aim of ensuring that the ratio of patients to midwives and nurses was decreased.
Various amendments have been made to the Act since 2015. The most recent amendment has the effect of increasing the presence of nurses and midwives in medical and surgical wards, birthing suites, postnatal wards, special care nurseries, geriatric evaluation management wards and larger emergency departments with short stay observation areas. The amendment will see that staffing will be improved in residential aged care and rehabilitation wards, and smaller regional hospitals will receive additional after-hours coordinators where specified.
On 2 June 2020, the Victorian Government announced that they are delivering on their promise to improve ratios in hospitals by employing 500 extra nurses and midwives. This comes at a very welcome time for healthcare workers who have been working tirelessly to fight the current pandemic.
The employment of 500 extra medical staff around Victoria is a positive step towards ensuring patients receive better and safer care. Additional staff may also mean that the nurses and midwives that we depend on during both personal and worldwide heath crises will see a change in workload.
However, we do have to remind ourselves and the Government that although an increase in staff is beneficial in improving our healthcare system, the staff need to be appropriately trained and qualified to help reduce the true patient to nurse/midwife ratio. In other words, to have the most effective impact, the Government need to acknowledge that it is not only an increase in staff that is required but increased training for those staff to perform their job of delivering high quality and safer healthcare.
In 2013 and 2014, the infamous tragedy at Bacchus Marsh Hospital brought to light the risks associated with ill-equipped, underqualified and mismanaged staff who are involved with the treatment of patients. The systematic failure of this hospital resulted in preventable stillbirths and newborn deaths. The midwives involved in the treatment of these babies failed to identify and subsequently act on abnormal CTG scans and misinterpreted vital information that could have saved these lives. The failure of the hospital to monitor staff performance, respond to and address complaints played a pivotal role in the negligent treatment.
It would be a devastation should similar tragedies occur in light of the Government's response to additional nursing staff in hospitals. This is why it is important to remind healthcare providers that properly and adequately investing in training staff is just as critical as an investment in an increased number of staff. We need our healthcare system to be one where we can feel comfortable and trust that the standard of treatment being provided to us and our loved ones is reasonable.
The announcement of 500 extra midwives/nurses is a step in the right direction for the future of our healthcare system but there is still a long way to go.
If you have experienced negligent medical treatment, contact our experts on (03) 9321 9764.