Nurses call for urgent investment into South Australia’s failing health system

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) has called on the state’s political leaders to take immediate action in an urgent bid to address the chronic under-resourcing of South Australia’s health system.

In its pre-election health policy position statement sent to all the major political parties, the ANMF says strong leadership is needed to tackle the significant issues across the public health system.

“At the moment we can’t see a policy that will put in place systems and resourcing that would actually support a positive health system. Instead, all we can see is a health system that continually fails and wildly lurches from crisis to crisis with no plan to get itself out of it,” said ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM.

Just last week, the closure of the Mental Health Hospital in the Home (MHIH) program was announced which has increased pressure on emergency departments with scores of mental health patients waiting more than 24 hours for a bed.

“Ensuring a strong and sustainable workforce is critical in light of the significant workforce changes anticipated in the very near future with thousands of nurses and midwives expected to leave their professions either through retirement or burnout,” Ms Dabars said.

“Never before have we seen such alarming levels of ramping and overcrowding, to the point where our health system is failing even our frail aged and our children.  

“South Australians deserve a State Government that is willing to prioritise the health of the community and that will require significant investment.
“We have seen leaders in other states such as Western Australia make a serious financial commitment to providing the best health care services possible to their residents. We need to see that same level of action here,” Ms Dabars said.

“All our public hospitals are continually run far beyond their designated capacity, sometimes more than double their emergency capacity, resulting in delayed and missed care.”

“What is frightening is that this is occurring at a time when the state does not have any active COVID-19 cases in the community. It doesn’t bear to think about if we were to have a COVID-19 outbreak here, how would people receive the care they needed?

“Any incoming government has an absolute responsibility to its citizens to invest and resource the public health care system so South Australians can access the care they need and deserve,” Ms Dabars said.  

“There are evidence-based and ready solutions to the many issues confronting health in this state.” These solutions include:


  • Resourcing and providing appropriate publicly employed staffing levels that ensure a quality public health system that meets the needs of our community.
  • Public hospitals to run at 90% capacity through the provision of additional acute and subacute beds to enable better flow from the emergency department, with the ability to flex up.
  • Implementing measures that improve the flow of patients through hospital care such as nurse led discharge
  • Support specialised mental health care funding which is commensurate with the requirements of individuals, groups and communities.
  • Measures that will increase the availability of nurses and midwives to meet the communities needs including:
    • The development of appropriate graduate support, including increasing the number of graduate placements in rural hospitals.
    • The cessation of Voluntary Separation Packages that lead to a loss of nursing or midwifery positions.
    • The casual employment of nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing to only be used for temporary employment situations or in exceptional circumstances.
    • Initiation of a workforce planning committee in partnership with the ANMF (SA Branch) to identify and monitor skills shortages and implement necessary supports and programs.
  • No further privatisation or outsourcing of public health services.
  • Protecting nurses and midwives from injury in the workplace including in areas such as:
    • Workplace bullying and harassment
    • Fatigue and burnout
    • Violence and challenging behaviours.

The major political parties’ responses to the issues, and the ideas we advance for policy, will be published by the ANMF in the lead-up to the state election.  

The ANMF (SA Branch) again urges the community to join our Action For Health campaign to pressure current and aspiring MPs to commit to urgent and effective measures, before our health care system spirals completely out of control. 

See how you can get involved