NSW Labor promises an extra 1200 nurses

·2-min read

NSW nurses say Labor's proposal to recruit 1200 extra nurses and midwives if it wins the state election is a good start but more will be needed.

Labor's proposal would see minimum "safe staffing levels" introduced to hospitals, beginning in emergency departments before rolling out across intensive care units, maternity wards and other areas.

The proposal would cost $175 million over four years.

NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association general secretary Shaye Candish is not ruling out more strikes.

"We have been campaigning for much more," she said.

"It (the proposal) is not everything but it is an excellent first step."

The union has been in discussions with the government but Ms Candish said it had offered nothing similar to Labor's proposal.

Labor leader Chris Minns said the proposal would ease pressure on health staff, help retain more workers and improve patient outcomes.

"Every bit of data and information ... has indicated that health is in a crisis," he said.

"And every quarter of results indicates that the problem is getting worse and not better."

Experienced nurses and midwives routinely quit or cut their hours because of untenable conditions at work, he said.

The union wants a one nurse to every four patients ratio.

The Labor proposal does not guarantee that but Ms Candish said it would help reach one nurse to every three patients in emergency departments, one to four ratios in some general areas and a one midwife to three patients in maternity wards.

Ms Candish said it was "absolutely not everything" the union wanted but would help nurses and their patients.

There was a "culture of overwork" in the healthcare system with people leaving the profession because of the demand, with some even developing post-traumatic stress disorder, Ms Candish said.

"When they turn up day in and day out to decide 'who do I give care to and who do I miss care for', it absolutely breaks people," she said.

The Labor policy is primarily aimed at certain hospitals in western Sydney and others across regional and rural NSW.

Shadow treasurer Daniel Mookhey said the proposal was negotiated after seven months of talks with the workforce.

"The investment is necessary because otherwise our system would collapse and our state can't afford that," he said.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard was meeting with the union on Wednesday afternoon.

"The Nurses and Midwives Association might say (they have achieved ratios) because they need to be able to say it sounds like they've achieved something," he said.

The latest quarterly figures from the Bureau of Health Information showed people in NSW faced record waits for services.

One in 10 patients left emergency departments without finishing treatment or being seen by a doctor - the most since reporting began 12 years ago.

The Labor opposition is heavily focused on health ahead of the March election.

The party has committed $150 million to fund another 500 paramedics in rural and regional areas.