Queenslanders get good news for Xmas - New laws save 145 lives 

Published: 11 December 2019 

A new study has revealed Queensland’s world-leading public hospital laws have saved 145 lives and up to 81 million taxpayer dollars.
Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) Secretary Beth Mohle said a study on the roll out of Queensland’s nurse to patient ratio laws had generated great news in time for Christmas.
Ms Mohle said the findings of the study, conducted by world-leading researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research and Queensland University of Technology (QUT), were phenomenal – and a world-first.
“The Queensland findings of the ratios’ roll out are phenomenal – with 145 lives and up to 81 million taxpayer dollars saved,’’ Ms Mohle said.
“Ratios have seen 255 readmissions from conditions such as infections avoided. 
“Avoiding these readmissions has saved the public health system more than 29,200 hospital days or between $54 and $81 million taxpayer dollars.
“The QNMU and Queensland nurses are extremely proud and delighted this world-class initiative has seen 145 deaths avoided and millions saved on behalf of taxpayers.
“Queensland’s world-leading nurse-to-patient ratios mandate how many patients can safely be allocated to a single nurse on the state’s public acute adult medical and surgical wards.
“The QNMU will continue to campaign to see this life and money saving initiative extended to other areas in Queensland Health including the state’s over stretched public Emergency Departments, prison health services and maternity services. 
“The QNMU will not rest until ratios are also extended to private hospitals and aged care facilities throughout Queensland.
“Today we celebrate Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s courageous decision to introduce nurse-to-patient ratios in Queensland. This decision has saved 145 lives and the Premier should be commended.’’
Ms Mohle also applauded the Premier’s decision to introduce nurse-to-patient ratios in acute mental health units and nurse-to-resident ratios and public reporting of staff numbers in the state’s 16 government-run aged care facilities.
She commended the state’s 60,000 nurses who helped the QNMU campaign for ratios. The laws will continue to be adopted in public hospital departments and wards state-wide as the staggered roll out continues. 
The QNMU would not rest until ratios were made law in Australia’s around 2000 privately-run aged care facilities. Australia’s private aged care facilities are the responsibility of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the federal government. 
“The life-saving results of nurse-to-patient ratios have exceeded all expectations,’’ Ms Mohle said.  
“That’s a huge saving for Queensland taxpayers and Queensland Health. The cost of avoiding 145 deaths in Queensland is immeasurable. 
“Ratios are now in place in 80 per cent of Queensland’s public hospital medical and surgical wards and the findings released today relate to two thirds of all activity across Queensland Health.
“I commend the work of Professor Linda Aiken and Dr Matthew McHugh from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, and researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
“I would also like to thank former Queensland Health Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Dr Frances Hughes, current Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Shelley Nowlan, all Queensland nurses and midwives and QNMU staff who have taken part and helped campaign for the introduction of nurse to patient ratios.
“We celebrate these findings and will continue to campaign for the wider roll out of ratios in the public sector, private aged care facilities and private hospitals.’’ Advertisements highlighting the findings of Queensland’s ratios’ rollout will begin online today. 
Queensland Health nurse to patient ratio findings and facts include:
  • 145 deaths avoided
  • 255 readmissions worth between $1.2 and $2.4 million avoided
  • 29,222 hospital days and associated costs of between $54 to $81 million avoided
  • Prior to legislation, nurse-to-patient ratios varied widely across Queensland Health facilities
  • Ratios specify a minimum average of 1:4 on morning/afternoon and 1:7 on night shifts in prescribed public acute adult medical-surgical wards
  • The average medical-surgical nurse saw a workload reduction of 1-3 patients
  • Even after accounting for patient demographics, health condition and severity of illness; hospital size and location; and other changes over time, a reduction of one patient per nurse was associated with:
    • 9% lower odds of dying in the hospital
    • 7% lower odds of readmission within 7-days
    • 3% reduction in length of stay
    • 7% reduction in nurse burnout.
  • The outcomes are consistent with retrospective cross-sectional studies using a similar survey protocol in the US, Europe, and other jurisdictions
  • The study design was based on a validated protocol used in over 30 countries and involved data collection from thousands of Queensland nurses representing all public hospitals via surveys before and after the legislation took effect
  • The survey data was linked with administrative data from hospitals and objective, independent data on outcomes for hundreds of thousands of Queensland patients to determine whether improving nurse staffing led to better outcomes
  • This was the first prospective study of a nurse to patient ratios policy globally.
There are currently no laws that state how Australia’s private aged care facilities should be staffed. There is no legal requirement even one Registered Nurse (RN) be on site at a private aged care facility at any time.
Ms Mohle called on all Queenslanders to be safe this Christmas and festive season. She also asked Queenslanders please spare a thought for the state’s 60,000-plus nurses and midwives who will work through the holiday season. 

Media contact: Lou Robson - 0422 550 278