Mr FREGON (Mount Waverley) (12:10): I rise to speak on the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Amendment Bill 2020, as do we all. This bill will ensure safe and high-quality care throughout our health system in Victoria in a range of clinical settings through improving minimum standards of nursing and midwifery staffing ratios. This is crucial in order for us to properly consider and address the increasing patient complexity and changing models of care in our hospitals and maternal and child health facilities.


This bill also seeks to safeguard the already exceptional standard, I might add, of services in the maternal and child health area that our Victorians are provided and protect the minimum education requirements of those maternal and child health nurses. There are a number of maternal and child health centres in my district of Mount Waverley. We have the Kerrie Road, the Mount Waverley and the Pinewood maternal and child health centres, and they all do a fantastic job. I am sure everybody in the house would agree with me that all of our nurses, especially at this time for Victoria, have done an exemplary job in looking after all of us who have needed it. The local centre at Pinewood was actually the centre where two of my kids were assisted and our family was helped after they were born, so a special shout-out for the Pinewood crew.


I would like to thank the Minister for Health and her team for their significant and important work, and her work obviously in bringing this bill before the house. The government can already be proud of our work in ensuring access to high-quality and safe health care, and once again we see another piece of legislation that continues this very, very important work. I would just like to touch on a number of my colleagues’ contributions. The member for Wendouree pointed out to us all that the Ballarat maternal and child health service is turning 100 in 2023, so I hope they are going to have a party, and let us hope we are all around to see them there. That would be great.


In more local news to us in Mount Waverley, my colleague from Ringwood, as he stated yesterday, has recently been celebrating the birth of his and his wife’s first child, which I am sure we all celebrate. Little Teddy, he is a cracker. He has good hair like his dad, and the best thing is that I can only presume—I am sure he will correct me if I am wrong—that we have another Hawks fan in Victoria, and that is good for all of us. That is a very good thing. I have got to find a little teddy or a little jumper; we have got to get that done because you have to get that done. I must admit with my third child, Sammy, when I rang Hawthorn membership to say, ‘Hey, look, we need to move our seats’, I said, ‘By the way, I’ll need to add a membership next year because little Sammy is coming along’, and they said, ‘Don’t worry about that, we’ll do it now’, so Sammy was a member before he was even born.


Mr Donnellan: A little branch-stacking there.


Mr FREGON: Now, now. Thank you for the interjection, Minister. We will move on. Also, we have to send our best wishes to the member for Burwood and the member for Euroa. We have had a number of babies in the house. The member to my left there obviously recently became a dad as well.


A member interjected.


Mr FREGON: There is something in the water in Parliament, I think.


Two acts will be amended by this bill, being the Safe Patient Care (Nurse to Patient and Midwife to Patient Ratios) Act 2015 and the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005. In 2015 the Andrews government enshrined nurse- and midwife-to-patient staffing ratios into law. That was a very good day—an advancement that we are proud to have achieved. But it does not stop there. You do not just do something and say, ‘Oh well, that is done’ and walk away. We know that higher staffing numbers not only lead to a more engaged workforce but also to better patient care and outcomes. And isn’t that really the most important thing? It is about the people who need the services when they need them. So making sure that our nurses are fit and trained and relaxed and able to do their best is obviously better for the people who need them.


As we have seen throughout this coronavirus period in the state, they have done very well, so making it even that little bit better is good for us all. I was delighted, as a candidate in 2018, to be able to promise the people of Mount Waverley that should we be voted back in—as the people obviously did—we would strengthen those ratios, and here we are today. We have come full circle. I would not speak for the minister obviously, but I am sure that the work continues, and I know that this government will continue to work on the safety of patients.


Now, I do need to make a slight apology to one nurse in particular, so I hope you can indulge me, Acting Speaker. Around about eight years ago my appendix burst, and it was a bit nasty. I will not go into details because you do not need to know, but at the end of the day I was in hospital for about 30 days. Can I specifically thank all of the staff and nurses at the Monash hospital and Jessie McPherson Private Hospital; they were fantastic. As I said, there is one nurse that I do need to apologise to. I do not know her name—I probably would not name her even if I did because that would be a bit cheeky—but suffice to say that towards the end of the 30 days I was not feeling great and this particular nurse, who was in charge of the area, was on at me quite regularly about getting up and walking around because I had to get moving again. I did not feel like doing that because I was not exactly well, but she was on and on at me; she was doing her job. Suffice to say I finally got up, a bit grumpy, walked around, walked around, got back to the area just near my room where she was and I said, ‘You happy now?’ and walked in. So I do apologise for being grumpy. I do. I should not have been that way. But I am pretty sure as I walked off—a grumpy, middle-aged bloke—into my room, she probably thought, ‘Yes, I am, thank you. Now nick off’. I do apologise.


While I am talking about Monash Health, I would like to extend your thoughts, Acting Speaker, to how not only our Minister for Health helps our patients but also Victoria’s Big Build and our level crossing removals help our patients. You might be thinking, ‘Well, that is a very long bow, how are you going to make this work?’. I will tell you. Early last year I had a meeting with the CEO of Monash hospital, and we were talking about many things because that is the local hospital for the people in Mount Waverley. I said to him, ‘Look, Clayton Road level crossing is gone’, which is fantastic, by the way, thank you, Minister for Transport Infrastructure. I said, ‘Is that a good thing? What do you think?’. And he looked at me and he said, ‘Well, put it this way. We do not deliver babies in ambulances anymore’.


Think about that. We have removed, I believe, 36 level crossings, but we have removed one particular one at Clayton Road near the Monash hospital and as a result mothers who are in the process of delivering their children do not risk having to have those children delivered in ambulances; they are making it to the hospital when they were not before. That is a real tangible benefit of some of the work that this government has done over the last five and a half years, and that work will continue.


I know that for the Minister for Health, the Premier, the Deputy Premier, the whole cabinet—the Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers is in front of me and I know his work continues on a daily basis. That work is very important, and I commend the bill to the house.