Congratulations for your amazing contribution
Summer is always a time of optimism and positivity and as we slip into the holiday season the NSW community should, and I think does, appreciate the enormous contribution of the state’s health workforce in getting us through the biggest health emergency in 100 years.
People in NSW will be able to enjoy with their families the best this state has to offer more safely than we were looking at not so long ago. I truly hope as many of our members as possible are able to experience some of the holiday experience.
The contribution of nurses and midwives in getting us to this enviable point has been spectacular and I couldn’t be more proud of you.
Of course this has come at some cost when nurses and midwives have barely had a break in two years. Everyone is tired.
While I’m sure the community appreciates your sacrifices, commitment and hard work I’m not sure I can say the same about our governments.
While they regularly sing the praises of nurses and midwives publicly their actions tell another, quite different story.
When it comes to talking about improving pay for nurses and midwives their petty meanness is apparent.
When it comes to talking about ratios and improved staffing, they wilfully refuse to acknowledge the reality of our under-resourced public health system.
In this issue of The Lamp we report on the Perrotet government’s attempt to strip nurses and midwives and other essential workers of their right to automatic cover for COVID-19 (see p. 18).
This would mean nurses and midwives would have to prove they were infected on the job and not in the community – a burden of proof that would be almost impossible to achieve.
This measure literally heaps insult upon injury. It is cruel and unwarranted.
These things together do raise important questions.
Is our state government capable of learning the lessons of COVID?
Do they have the vision and the will required to build a robust, well-resourced public health system that will be able to provide safety for the NSW community against the health threats that experts tell us are inevitable.
More pandemics, superbugs and the consequences of climate change can no longer be dismissed as something that will happen down the track.
These threats exist now.
Delayed demand for normal health services will also put immediate pressure on our system as COVID, hopefully, abates.
A pressing priority must be the resilience of the health workforce.
The Australian College of Critical Care Nurses say critical care nurses are “leaving in droves”. We continue to press the NSW Minister for Health to recognise the problem and to act to establish professional standard staffing levels.
There is a growing body of research that shows that the pandemic has exacted a heavy emotional toll on nurses and midwives. Levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), burnout, depression and anxiety among the health workforce have ballooned during COVID.
The research shows, and we also know it from our own experiences, that much of that mental trauma comes from a heartfelt concern that our patients would not get the care they need and deserve because of a shortage of staff and resources and the vulnerability this engenders during a lethal pandemic.
The Association has been saying it for more than a decade but it is important to keep saying it: our public health system has been seriously under resourced and understaffed. COVID has just exposed that weakness and made it worse.
The state government with its responsibility for the public health system and the federal government with its responsibility for aged care just keep putting their heads in the sand and hope their political spin will make these problems go away.
That is at once laughable and irresponsible.
The Association takes the responsibility of improving the public health system seriously. We have tirelessly advocated for ratios as an important pillar of any robust public health system. That position has been backed by irrefutable research.
The problems aren’t going away and neither are we.