New Nurse and Midwife Staffing Requirements Commence in Victoria


New laws in Victoria have recently commenced clarifying certain nurse to patient and midwife to patient ratios in public hospitals and health services.

Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Amendment Act 2020 No.36 (Vic)

This article applies to public hospitals and health services in Victoria.

On 1 March 2021, relevant parts of the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Amendment Act 2020 No.36 (Vic) (the Amending Act) amended the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Act 2015 (Vic) (the Act).

Rounding method for staffing requirements

By way of background, prior to 1 March 2019 section 12 of the Act provided for circumstances where a ratio was applied under the Act that did not produce a whole number. The effect of that previous section 12 was to exempt an operator of a hospital from the requirement to roster an additional nurse if the ratio warranted the rostering of less than 50% of an additional nurse. On 1 March 2019, section 12 of the Act was amended to impose an obligation (the new rounding method) on an operator of a hospital in relation to certain wards (wards of high-demand and complexity, i.e. general medical or surgical wards, coronary care units, operating theatres, post-anaesthetic recovery rooms and emergency departments) to roster an additional nurse where the application of a ratio to a ward resulted in a number that was not a whole number.

Hospitals should note that section 12 of the Act has now been amended to stipulate the date on which the new rounding method applies when determining staffing requirements in:

  • an acute stroke ward;
  • a haematology ward;
  • an oncology ward;
  • the morning shift and the afternoon shift in an aged high care residential ward in all hospitals; and
  • the night shift in a rehabilitation bed in all hospitals.

These amendments provide for the complete phasing in of the application of the new rounding method for all ratios applying under the Act. This means that in relation to a particular ward on a specified shift, where the actual or expected number of patients in a ward or the number of beds is not divisible into a whole number when the relevant ratio is applied, the operator of the hospital must ensure that the ward or number of beds is staffed with one additional nurse or midwife (as the case requires) in order to comply with the relevant ratio.

It is important to note that the new amendments to section 12 of the Act operate in a highly particularised fashion, applying differentially depending on the type of shift (i.e. morning, afternoon or night). For example, the new rounding method will apply to an acute stroke ward, a haematology ward and an oncology ward on the morning shift in all hospitals on and from 1 March 2021. Moreover, the new rounding method will apply on and from 1 July 2022 on the afternoon shift in an aged high care residential ward in all hospitals and on the night shift in a rehabilitation bed in all hospitals.

Conclusion

As the new amendments to section 12 are highly prescriptive (meaning that a summary of it cannot cover all of the finer particulars relevant to each ward and hospital type), we recommend that organisations review the amendments in the Amending Act (to the extent that it applies to their own health service).

Moreover, organisations should ensure that they update their staffing rosters to comply with the new ratios and update their policies and procedures to reflect these new staffing requirements.

Contact

For further information please contact the Law Compliance team:

Phone: 1300 862 667

Email: info@lawcompliance.com.au