QNMU calls on private health insurers to support minimum ratios

Published: 21 April 2022

The QNMU has achieved some terrific outcomes with legislating minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in Queensland’s public hospitals and state-run nursing homes. 

Despite these successes and the mounting evidence that ratios save lives and money, private hospital providers consistently refuse to consider implementing similar regulations around staffing requirements. 

Through enterprise bargaining, the QNMU has tried for many years to negotiate minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in private hospitals. Unfortunately, private hospitals insist on incorrectly viewing ratios as a short-term cost burden. 

For years, providers have ignored the conclusions of world-leading research, which prove very clearly that Queensland Health’s minimum ratios have made our hospitals safer for staff and patients, and continue to save the system millions of dollars thanks to decreased adverse events. 

The QNMU is now turning to private health insurers for their support, as we continue our campaign for ratios in Queensland’s private hospitals.

The increasing need for ratios in private hospitals 

The burden on our private hospitals is rising. In 2020, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) reported that 43.6% of the Australian population had an insurance product with coverage for hospital treatment, with private hospitals reporting the highest rate of hospital utilisation within the same period.

Throughout the pandemic, there has also been an increasing reliance on the private hospital sector to either support the public hospital system or to continue providing much needed surgical and medical care. 

Patients must have confidence that providers are investing in more staffing to keep up with demand – that is, after all, what patients are paying their premiums for.  

It is in the interests of private health insurers that our private hospitals require minimum nurse-to-patient ratios if patients in these hospitals are to continue receiving high quality care. The QNMU believes there is more private health insurers can do to make this happen. 

The QNMU has now written to various health insurers, calling on them to lead the way in advancing the absolute need for minimum nurse-to-patient ratios within the private hospital sector in Queensland. Health insurers we have written to include Medibank, Bupa, HCF, HBF, NIB, GMHBA, Teachers Union Health, Teachers Health Fund and Australian Unity.

We have also invited health insurers to meet with the QNMU to discuss how we might progress this together, noting our shared interests in patient and staff safety.

In the meantime, QNMU members who hold health insurance with any of the above insurers are encouraged to reach out to them and tell them about the importance of nurse-to-patient ratios in our private hospitals. The more these health insurers start to hear our message, the better!

To find out more about our ratios campaign, visit www.qnmu.org.au/ratiossavelives