Under-pressure emergency departments get more nurses

A major overhaul of how NSW hospitals are staffed is underway as more nurses are added to under-pressure emergency departments.

Extra frontline healthcare workers will deliver one-on-one patient care and lift minimum staffing levels on shifts as two major Sydney hospitals recruit dozens of new staff.

Liverpool and Royal North Shore hospitals are the first sites to roll out increased staff under the so-called "safe-staffing levels" program.

Both hospitals have been recruiting about 70 full-time nurses between emergency departments at the sites.

The staffing boost will enable a one-to-one nursing ratio for generally occupied emergency department resuscitation beds on all shifts, while there will be a one-to-three ratio for generally occupied treatment spaces and short-stay unit beds on all shifts, the state government says.

Phase one will begin in level-five and level-six emergency departments - which treat the most critically ill patients in major hospitals - before being progressively implemented across other facilities.

Health Minister Ryan Park said the staffing boost would introduce minimum staffing levels on every shift, resulting in more workers in hospitals across the state.

A task force will review the initial rollout at the two emergency departments to help inform the rollout at future sites.

Both hospitals were under critical pressure to serve their growing communities, Mr Park told parliament on Thursday.

"Over the course of the next three years, the single biggest reform to the way in which we staff our hospitals will see around 2480 additional nurses pumped into a system that so desperately needs them," he said.

Health Services Union NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said hospitals must be adequately staffed so health workers can do their jobs properly.

"Patient outcomes come from having the right people in the right place at the right time," he said.

Temporary medical officers, known as locums, can only be used for so long.

"It's very important that the government understands how stretched the NSW health system is ... when we're bringing in locums at $5000 a day, times how many locums across the state, it becomes unsustainable," Mr Hayes said.

The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association says the implementation of minimum and enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios means patient safety will no longer be compromised.

“It will provide crucial workload relief for our members, who have been struggling with chronic understaffing for too long," general secretary Shaye Candish told AAP.

"It will also ensure our public hospitals are safer for patients, so they receive the care they deserve."

Ms Candish said she was confident the staffing model would help to rebuild the workforce and lead to higher retention levels.

Association assistant general secretary Michael Whaites said the union also hoped the initiative would be expanded to intensive care units, before also being rolled out in adult in-patient wards, maternity services and multi-purpose service sites.

“We are seeking further funding from the government to ensure these five clinical areas receive ratios," he said. 

"Current funding means the rollout won’t cover all wards and units in every hospital."

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