Certainty for temporary health workers in NSW budget

Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS

More than 1000 nurses and midwives will have their positions in the NSW public health system made permanent under a budget measure to ensure safe staffing levels.

The Labor government has earmarked an extra $572 million in the September 19 budget to retain 1112 health workers.

The frontline workers were at risk of being let go when former coalition government funding for their positions expires in July 2024.

The temporary positions were created during the pandemic when hospitals were overwhelmed.

The nurses and midwives work across 15 local health districts and the Children's Hospital Network across the state.

Premier Chris Minns said while the measure would help retain essential workers, more recruitment would be needed to meet safe staffing levels.

But he remained confident of meeting those targets thanks to changes to working conditions and immigration upticks.

The government has also committed to hiring an additional 1200 nurses and midwives during its first term under its Safe Staffing Levels in NSW hospitals policy.

Health Minister Ryan Park said staffing levels across the state's hospitals kept him up at night.

"We can't deliver the care in our emergency departments and across our hospitals unless we have men and women who are our nurses, our midwives doing their important roles," he said.

"Hospitals alone don't deliver health care. It's the men and women of the NSW Health system who do that."

Opposition leader Mark Speakman said the previous government had a plan to hire an additional 10,000 health workers over the next four years.

He called on the government to rule out scrapping plans for those extra workers as well as the $30 billion the coalition had pledged for the health system.

Opposition health spokesman and former treasurer Matt Kean said he was concerned "reckless" spending by the government would see the state lose its triple-A credit rating, meaning a higher cost of borrowing money.

"What's going to blow the budget and trash the AAA credit rating is the reckless spending that Chris Minns is making on propping up his union cronies," he said.

Mr Park said the government was focused on fixing the budget so that workers who deliver essential frontline services in health and education were secure.

The premier also brushed off polls showing public support for his party was slipping, saying "long marriages start with a brief honeymoon".

Polling published by the Sydney Morning Herald showed Labor's primary vote dropped six points, from a high of 44 per cent in May, to 38 per cent in September.

"If you look at the measures that we're taking ... they're about long-term reforms that can deliver frontline services to the people of this state without living beyond our means," Mr Minns said.

"Going through that process, there's a political cost (and) ... it's worth paying. Not just for the sake of it, but to set in place the personnel, the policies and the budget to drive long-term change for NSW."