Nurses are repeating their demand for mandated ratios in NSW hospitals, but their union fears the ongoing calls are falling on deaf ears.
Midwives and nurses rallied at five hospitals and mental health centres across the Hunter on Wednesday to mark International Nurses' Day.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association wants mandated ratios of one nurse to three patients for emergency departments and one nurse to four patients in other wards.
Victoria introduced mandated ratios in 2015, while Queensland followed suit the next year.
The union's assistant general secretary Judith Kiejda, who has been a nurse since the 1970s, told the Newcastle Herald she believed a lack of resources showed that the NSW government did not respect nurses.
Ms Kiejda said she believed the repeated calls for more resources showed the pleas of nurses were not being heard.
"We do not have enough staff with the right skills to do the job the community demands," she said.
"The community, I think, thinks things are OK but what they don't realise is for the nurses to do their job properly they've got to go the extra mile."
Joanne Patterson, who has been a nurse for 43 years and works at John Hunter Hospital alongside her daughter Kieran, said nurses were "sick to death of having to come to work and being flogged all the time".
"We don't become a nurse because we want to sit around and watch people wait for five hours - we want to help people," she said.
"We need more people on the floor [working]. This is the worst that nursing has ever been."
In a statement, Hunter New England Health said it "recognises and appreciates the hard and important work our staff do for our patients and communities every day".
It said wards were staffed in line with requirements of the Public Health System Nurses' and Midwives' (State) Award, with consent from the union.
HNEH said its budget jumped by $72 million - to $2.4 billion - between 2018-19 and 2019-20 and that it increased its workforce by 1237 full-time equivalent staff between 2012 and 2020.
"The Award provides an agreed method for determining the number of nurses required to provide direct clinical care in general inpatient wards, palliative care units, rehabilitation units and adult acute mental health inpatient units across NSW," it said.
"Like all Local Health Districts, Hunter New England Health is required to use this method rather than ratios as it provides flexibility in staffing and allows services to more closely align with patients' needs. It allows flexibility to allocate nursing hours in a way that matches the busiest times and patient needs."
IN NEWS TODAY:
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: