Más que 2,000 health workers across NSW, Victoria and the ACT are currently in isolation, placing more pressure on the remaining workforce as Covid cases continue to climb.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association says many health workers in that state’s hospitals are working shifts of up to 16 hours to cover the shortfall, while PPE issues have left some staff without access to “fit-tested” masks.
In NSW, cual informó 1,259 new cases and 12 deaths on Wednesday, there are understood to be 1,190 health workers currently unavailable because of Covid exposure or infection, con 101 new cases across 11 different facilities in the past week.
In Victoria, the average number of unavailable staff due to Covid-19 across all Victorian public hospitals is 736, according to the most recent data available from 6 septiembre.
Desde entonces, community-acquired cases have almost doubled, con 423 new cases reported in the state on Wednesday.
los 736 health workers unavailable because of Covid in Victoria includes all hospital staff – not just clinical staff – and those exposed who are not infected.
Brett Holmes, the general secretary of the NSW nurses association, said the result of the furloughed workforce was that remaining staff were working harder and often doing double shifts as long as 16 horas.
“It is harder – they are working extraordinarily hard,” Holmes said. “The effect is often that other people have to pick up these shifts, por supuesto, or they are working longer shifts.”
A spokesperson for the Victorian health department said the state government was prepared for the workforce shortfall.
“Our hospitals have been preparing for coronavirus since January last year, creating extra capacity and ensuring we have enough beds, equipment and PPE to manage any surge in patients," ellos dijeron.
“All health services are able to access Victoria’s surge workforce if required, which will become more and more important if case numbers increase and more staff are furloughed.”
Holmes said that while the vaccination mandate would help address the problem in NSW, the experience in the UK had shown that Covid cases among the vaccinated health workforce had only dropped by 50%.
“We need all of our nurses and midwives and other health workers at the bedside and yes, I think there is hope by the minister and the government that the requirement for full vaccination will somehow eliminate this problem of isolating health workers, but given the overseas research, I don’t agree that that will be the case,” Holmes said.
“It is not clear that the need to isolate will be removed because you cannot really be sending someone to work who is carrying the virus and for them to be able to contain that behind their mask for eight to 16 hours a day.”
On the issue of PPE, Holmes said that there had been a supply shortage of three types of mask, which had left health workers using masks that had not been fit-tested.
Fit testing is the process by which a mask is fitted and tested to ensure it has an adequate seal and is working correctly.
“There is a supply issue and I don’t know how long it will be before it is corrected,” Holmes said. “They have had to shift to other masks and if they have not been fit-tested for the other masks then that requires another round of fit testing.”
El miércoles, the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said the NSW health workforce was close to reaching a 90% first dose vaccination rate ahead of a mandate for the sector that comes into force on 30 septiembre.
Berejiklian said she was confident health workers would get vaccinated and she was not concerned about people leaving the sector.
“I am really confident that healthcare workers will put the interests of their patients and the interests of their own health [primero] and I’m very convinced we will achieve very high vaccine coverage,” Berejiklian said.
“Our health staff are seeing the consequences day in, day out, of Covid infection. They are seeing patients in ICU, hearing stories, and I’d be very surprised if we’d have a much hesitancy in our healthcare workers.”
NSW was the first state to introduce a mandate for health workers but Western Australia and Queensland have since followed suit. Victoria is expected to announce a mandate for health workers with a plan to be discussed at Friday’s meeting of national cabinet.