Government Opposes Bill for Registered Nurses in Nursing Homes

Today the Berejiklian Government voted against measures that would have made registered nurses available 24/7 at nursing homes. Read Jenny's speech in support of this bill below:


Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 12:32 :37 ): I speak on behalf of The Greens in support of the Public Health Amendment (Registered Nurses in Nursing Homes) Bill 2016. Members on both sides of the House have made some heartfelt contributions to this debate, but when there is such impassioned debate on an issue about which everybody has strong feelings it is crucial that we forget those emotions and listen to the experts who are qualified to tell us what is needed. I acknowledge the members and activists of the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association who are in the gallery. While we may have personal feelings and stories that capture the attention of the media, it should be the health professionals—those who work in our health facilities, caring for the aged, the frail and the vulnerable—who advise us what to do. They tell us that they support the bill and that registered nurses should be available 24/7 in our aged-care facilities. That has been The Greens' policy from the beginning, and will continue to be so.

I never thought I would find myself speaking in support of the first bill introduced by the member for Orange in this place, but one should never say never. I note that the Minister for Health has entered the Chamber. I look forward to his trying to divert us from the issue at hand. We are talking about the need for registered nurses in nursing homes. I remind members of the history of The Greens' commitment to this bill. Dr John Kaye, the late Greens member of the Legislative Council, was a great supporter of the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association. He met with nurses on many occasions and understood the need for ratios for registered nurses in residential aged care. The Greens upper House member Jan Barham chaired the committee that made the recommendation enshrined in this bill. She felt passionately about employing registered nurses 24/7 in nursing homes. She had heard many stories and knew the personal impact that the loss of the service had had on so many people's lives.

The Nurses and Midwives' Association is supportive of the bill. Recent media coverage has revealed that the NSW Country Women's Association also supports it, as does the NSW Cancer Council and many other organisations and groups that have contacted The Greens. A petition presented by the member for Blue Mountains gathered tens of thousands of signatures from people who support having registered nurses in nursing homes. During the discussion on that petition my Greens colleague Jamie Parker made it clear that The Greens have always supported the need for registered nurses in nursing homes 24/7, and we are happy to restate that commitment today. I remind the House that the petition stated:

The Legislative Assembly should ensure a permanent legislation is in place requiring a registered nurse on duty at all times and the appointment of a Director of Nursing in New South Wales nursing homes.

Many thousands of people signed the petition. Many of them signed it because they had a personal story as to why they believed their support was crucial. However, the debate should refer not just to personal stories and heartfelt emotions; we should be listening to the experts—the registered nurses and the health professionals who say that this service is essential. On 11 May 2017 the Country Women's Association wrote the following in The Land:

Surely, if there is a problem with getting registered nurses into country aged care facilities, we should be looking at that issue as a priority, rather than risk the quality of health care of older people?

This is what this debate is about: priorities. We know that if this Government really wanted to it could find funding in the budget to ensure that there is a registered nurse in all aged-care facilities and nursing homes. But the Government does not want to make that a priority because it has other priorities that are about delivering for the big interests om the big end of town. The Government's priorities are to deliver for the big banks, the developers and people who donate to the Liberal Party. The Government's interests are much less focused on people's individual needs. The priority of The Greens is to ensure the best health care and personal care for the elderly and frail and aged in our nursing homes.

The Minister for Health could say, "I do not like this bill, but I really want to make sure this happens because it should be a priority". He does not have to support this bill if he does not want to, but he should make that announcement today. He could do it but he chooses not to, because this Government prioritises other things. It prioritises the privatisation of our public services, for example. Those opposite are interested in making profits. They are not interested in the people who use those services. If they were, they would keep the services in public hands.

Mr Kevin Anderson: Point of order: My point of order is under Standing Order 76, relevance. I ask that the member for Newtown be brought back to the leave of the bill.

TEMPORARY SPEAKER ( Mr Adam Crouch ): Order! The member for Newtown will return to the leave of the bill.

Ms JENNY LEONG: On 11 May 2017 in The Land the Country Women's Association backed calls for registered nurses in aged-care facilities. It says that Parliament should make this a priority. The Government could do that if it chose to, but it does not. The Greens stand with the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association, with activists who have been pushing for this change, and with the families who understand the impact and benefits of the bill. The Greens support the bill 100 per cent.

Mr Andrew Fraser: Come to regional New South Wales and have a look at what you will be destroying.

Mrs Leslie Williams: Say you stand with the Shooters and Fishers.

Ms JENNY LEONG: I note the heckling by members opposite. As I said at the beginning of my contribution, I never thought I would find myself, as the member for Newtown, supporting the member for Orange in this place. As was identified in the upper House, this is a joint initiative from members who support this important change. The Minister and Government members choose to make it about internal politics rather than the important issue of registered nurses in aged-care facilities. Those members should recognise that they could make the change and ensure the protection of the aged and the elderly. The Greens support the bill and urge all members to do likewise.


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