QNMU applauds groundbreaking count the babies laws

Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union (QNMU)

The Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) is delighted to welcome an important milestone towards the introduction of midwife to patient ratios.

QNMU Secretary Sarah Beaman said Health Minister Hon. Shannon Fentiman today presented a Bill that stipulates a newborn baby is counted as a patient when they are staying in a room on a maternity ward with their birthing parent. This is an important step to achieving the promised 1-6 midwife to mother and baby ratio across all Queensland Health maternity services.

“We are delighted to have achieved this milestone and expect that Hospital and Health Boards Regulation will be updated to reflect the new midwifery ratios in the coming months. This is the first step towards midwifery ratios of one midwife to six individuals on Queensland Health postnatal maternity wards,” Ms Beaman said.

“Counting each baby as an additional patient alongside the mother is an Australian first.”

Under the new law, Queensland will become the only state or territory in Australia to count both mothers and babies in midwifery ratios.

Once regulated, these midwifery ratios will make Queensland Health postnatal maternity wards the safest in the country. 

“Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union members have long campaigned for midwifery ratios to keep mothers, babies and midwives safe, so we are delighted to see this progress.” 

A QNMU Count the Babies audit of selected Queensland Health inpatient maternity wards last year found individual midwives were routinely being allocated as many as 20 women and babies, or a total of up to 20 individuals, at a time. This is unsafe.

“At the moment midwives are overloaded, many of them struggling with burn out or being forced to leave the jobs they love. But ratios, once legislated will help them feel valued, supported and heard and enable them to provide Queensland women and babies they level of care they need and deserve.

“By having additional time, a reduced patient load, and the opportunity to deliver high-quality care, we will improve outcomes for babies, mothers, and the Queensland community. It will also lead to a decrease in readmissions,” Ms Beaman said.

Once regulated, Ms Beaman acknowledged there would be additional Queensland Health midwives required to comply with the new ratios and called for a state workforce plan and funding to address existing and forecast staff shortfalls.

“We are eager to collaborate with the state government on workforce planning to ensure it can secure the necessary staffing levels mandated by the new ratios,” Ms Beaman said.

In 2016, Queensland became the fourth government in the world to introduce nurse-to-patient ratios in prescribed Queensland Health wards. This roll-out continues.  In the first year alone, Queensland Health ratios saved 145 lives and up to 81 million taxpayer dollars.

/Public Release.