Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1582      February 20, 2013

Help Save the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program

The Victorian branch of the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) has been campaigning to secure ongoing funding for the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program, Victoria (NMHPV) and in late 2012 a reprieve was granted through the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) until June 30, 2014. The NMBA decided they are unwilling to fund the NMHPV beyond this date.

The NMHPV provides advice, support, referrals and case management to nurses and midwives and nursing and midwifery students facing the challenges of alcohol, drug and mental health issues.

As an independent service the program has helped hundreds of nurses and midwives suffering drug and alcohol and mental health problems. Employees are often anxious about seeking help from their employer due to the stigma associated with mental health and problems of addiction.

This puts them at greater risk of their condition impacting their professional lives and also increases the risk that they may be reported to AHPRA. It is critical that every effort is made to provide nurses and midwives with access to independent health care so they can confidently access support early.

It is critical that we save the NMHPV.

The ANF is very concerned that without ongoing funding the NMHPV would be unable to continue to offer its essential services to Victorian nurses, midwives and students of nursing and midwifery. If the program has to close its doors it will be nearly impossible to resurrect.

Recently the ANF met with Anne Copeland, Chair of the NMBA, about the future of the NMHPV and discussed its opposition to and disappointment in the Board’s decision to cease funding.

The ANF believes that its decision is not supported by evidence of the program’s critical work, provided through feedback from the nurses and midwives who have relied upon the service, and feedback from employers and Directors of Nursing and Midwifery who have gained so much from the resulting workforce benefits.

A recent report released by the NMHPV and produced by the University of Melbourne found that the NMHPV had provided significant casework support and health promotion for nurses and midwives. They found the NMHPV had improved the health of nurses and increased awareness among nurses and midwives and employers regarding the health needs of nurses and midwives.

They suggest there is a strong case for the service to continue into the future.

We have to find a long term solution to resolve the future NMHPV funding problems. Our strong preference has been to have the program totally funded by the NMBA. However the NMBA is refusing to agree to this.

The ANF has been working on alternative suggestions to put to the NMBA. One proposal is to organise partial funding by the NMBA with a small contribution from each Victorian registrant.

The $560,000 per annum cost required to operate the program (as at 2012) is not prohibitive, particularly given the critical services it provides. It equates to around six dollars per Victorian registrant per annum. The union is proposing a joint funding option to maintain the NMHPV beyond 2014. The proposal suggests three to five dollars per annum (5.75 to 6.2 cents per week) increase in registration renewal fees for Victorian nurses and midwives to cover 50 percent of the cost of maintaining the NMHPV with the other 50 percent contributed by the NMBA.   

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