Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Amendment Bill 2020

Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (14:53): It is a great day today. Not only are we celebrating the Day for Daniel for Bruce and Denise Morcombe up there in Queensland doing their magnificent walk, and I am wearing this tie in support of them—and of course, Ms Maxwell, it is good to see some people wearing red today—but it is also World Teachers Day, which is fantastic, paying tribute to the teachers out there, especially my wife. They are all inspirational. You all do a great job. We have the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Amendment Bill 2020—momentous. I would like to make a brief contribution to the debate on this bill. The bill follows on from the government’s initial bill in 2019, which Ms Maxwell and I were happy to support then and we are happy to support this now. This bill seeks to achieve a number of things, including amending the rounding method used when determining staffing requirements, amending certain nurseto-patient and midwife-to-patient ratios on specified shifts in certain wards and amending the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 to require providers of certain maternal and child health services to employ or engage nurses for those services only if the nurses have prescribed maternal and child health nurse qualifications.
It incorporates four main sets of changes to the structure of the nursing and midwifery workforce within the Victorian public health system. Chiefly, it widens the application across the health system of recently changed rounding methods used for the determination of minimum nurse-to-midwife staffing requirements via nurse-to-patient ratios. I truly believe if there was one positive to come from this stubborn pandemic it is that the public now have a greater appreciation and understanding of the importance of our healthcare workers, as we have all said in this chamber today. From the administration staff who welcome patients in our hospitals to the nurses, doctors and surgeons who treat their patients, all of their work is invaluable. It has not gone unnoticed, and we thank you very much. Despite the importance of healthcare workers, resourcing has long been an issue. Our nurses have a challenging enough job without having to worry about inadequate staffing. This is why this bill is so important. It enshrines in legislation the minimum number of nurses per patient for hospitals. You can have the most modern and innovative hospital wards in the world—and in many cases we do—but if there are not enough qualified nurses to look after these individuals then all of that investment and resources are made redundant. Nurses really are on the front line in terms of patient care in our hospitals. As a member for Western Victoria it would be remiss of me not to mention that this bill reclassifies Warrnambool Base Hospital from a level 3 hospital to a level 2 hospital from 1 July 2022. I think this is an important change which will result in more staffing at the Warrnambool Base Hospital and hopefully result in better quality of care for patients. I have been in contact with local stakeholders, including the mayor and CEO of the Warrnambool City Council, who all support this reclassification. The government has gone to some effort to explain that between the same bill in 2019 and this bill now there will be the creation of over 1100 new jobs—600 through the previous bill and 500 through this bill. More jobs for nurses and midwives in Victoria’s public hospitals can only be a good thing, not only for all Victorian patients but for those aspiring towards careers in these fields. Finally, I would like to place on the record some remarks about aged care. As Australia faces an ageing population it is going to become increasingly important that our aged-care sector is adequately resourced and staffed. I am not referring to you, Mr Barton; you have got a while to go yet. I note that this bill does not expand ratios in aged care as the provision of this sector, as has been stated before, is a commonwealth responsibility. That said, there are of course a handful of state-funded and state-managed public aged-care facilities. Ms Maxwell was right to place on the record our party’s views on aged care in 2019 when debating the previous instalment of this bill, whilst in the Senate Derryn Hinch aptly stated that politicians forget the only difference between them and old people is that ‘they got there first’. Of course this is true, but it also speaks to a bigger problem about aged care. There is seemingly a disconnect between politicians and aged care. Only last week the Premier shared his concerns about placing his mother in some aged-care homes, and this is understandable. When you have been told that your parent or grandparent is safe in their room and you then find out that they have passed away without anyone checking in on them, you simply do not care if it is a federal, state or local government fault. You just want the issue fixed. COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the awful state of aged care in Australia—some patients being showered every four days, disabled people being prematurely locked up in aged-care facilities due to a lack of alternative accommodation, and the list goes on. While this bill improves conditions and resourcing for nurses in hospitals the same approach must be taken towards outlining mandatory staff-to-patient ratios in aged-care homes. As I mentioned in a recent submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, there is also a need for agedcare providers to outline how much money they are making and where exactly this revenue is being spent. Looking after the sick and vulnerable must be a priority for all people in this place and more broadly for all tiers of government. We have been entrusted to make decisions on behalf of people to improve their lives. Let us not waste it. I commend this bill to the house.


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