Queens Hall Parliament House after introduction of amendments to the Safe Patient Care Act

Historic hospital staffing laws will be the envy of the world

Media release

The Andrews Government introduced an historic bill to parliament today designed to increase the number of nurses and midwives caring for Victorian patients.

The Safe Patient Care Act 2015 amendment bill proposes unprecedented improvements to the current nurse/ midwife patient ratios in Victoria’s public hospitals and public nursing homes and residential aged are wards.

Ratios vary by ward, time of day and type of hospital and were first included in the Victorian public sector nurses and midwives enterprise agreement in 2000. The Andrews Government legislated ratios in 2015.

The proposed changes, which will require more than 600 additional nurses and midwives, include:

  • new ratios in acute stroke, haematology and acute inpatient oncology wards
  • the removal of ‘rounding down’ known to nurses and midwives as the ‘50 per cent rule’. When the number of patients is not easily divisible by the ratio, for example applying 1:4 in a 30-bed ward, management can roster seven or eight nurses. The current clause legally requires management to consider patient care in its decision to round up or down. The decision to roster fewer nurses is more common. If the revised law is passed, management must always round nursing and midwifery numbers up.
  • improved ratios in palliative care, birthing suites, special care nurseries, and emergency department resuscitation cubicles. 

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said ‘These changes are part of the Andrews Government’s promise that nurses and midwives will rightly never again have to bargain for safe patient care.

‘Victorian nurses and midwives urge all parliamentarians to put health policy above politics and get the amendments passed before the end of this term.

‘The changes are measured and considered and evidence we have a government that is actually concerned and doing something about the growing demand on the public health system,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.

‘This isn’t just a 2018 look at hospital staffing, this is about having enough nurses and midwives in the future.

‘Victoria is still one of the few places in the world to have mandated ratios ward-by-ward and shift-by-shift. These improvements will make us the envy of many nurses and midwives across the world trying to care for patients with unpredictable staffing levels,’ she said.

Media inquiries: Robyn Asbury 0417 523 252