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Nurses concerned about funding fine print, seek to lock in job security

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Treasurer Cameron Dick confirmed Queensland Health would need to help pay for more staff by finding savings in the system.

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Handing down Labor’s policy costings on Monday, Dick confirmed most of the funding required would come from $4 billion in previously-announced borrowings.

However, the fine print stipulated that Labor’s promise of 5800 more nurses, 1500 more doctors and 1700 more allied health professionals “is to be funded from the existing Queensland Health funding envelope subject to achieving the existing efficiency and productivity dividends set out in the agreement”. It will also be influenced by the timing of capital works projects and the renewal of the funding agreement next term.

While some governments exempt health from efficiency dividend policies, Dick said it was an existing measure requiring Queensland Health to find savings of about $270 million a year. He suggested meeting the state’s two per cent dividend target would be “easily done” and not require any staff cuts.

“I was the health minister for three years and we grew the frontline and the non-frontline,” Dick said.

The Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union has been campaigning for nurses to be specifically classified as frontline workers with additional protections. It has also sent a pledge to election candidates seeking their written commitment to a range of workforce interventions.

QNMU secretary Beth Mohle said members had identified the top election issues as the need for more staff, better job security and safe workloads.

Mohle said a poll commissioned by the QNMU also found public support for continued investment in the state’s heathcare system. The union is not affiliated with any political party and has more than 60,000 members.

“The QNMU has sent a pledge to major parties in the upcoming state election seeking a firm commitment to continued investment in the state’s public health system,’’ Mohle said.

“We today again call on all candidates to make public their stance on the protection of Queensland’s public health system. We feel voters have a right to know.’’

More than 70 Labor candidates – including Health Minister Steven Miles – have already signed the QNMU pledge. It also commits to extending minimum staffing ratios to areas such as emergency departments, operating theatres, maternity and prison services, which is an issue the union has campaigned on for years.

While some Katter’s Australian Party candidates have signed the pledge, there have been no signatures from the Liberal National Party – which has promised an extra 2530 nurses and midwives. That could also be a point of contention should the LNP win government, however a Labor victory would also come with union pressure.

“Elections are mere punctuation points, our focus after 31 October will be on ensuring commitments are actually delivered,” Mohle said.

Dick called on the LNP to reveal whether it would aim for a surplus, not borrow, and deliver its policy commitments through public service cuts. The LNP is expected to release its costings on Thursday.

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