Patients, nurses and midwives deserve better
The first responsibility of any government is to protect its citizens from harm. By this measure, the federal and NSW governments have failed badly.
At every moment in the COVID crisis the federal and NSW governments have been behind the game and slow to listen to and act upon health advice.
The vaccine “strollout”’ and the rolling calamities in aged care were particularly inexcusable.
But with the arrival of the Omicron variant, things have gone from bad to worse, with both governments abandoning the health advice that successfully underpinned Australia’s pandemic response for the first 18 months.
Independent experts have been brutal in their assessment of the federal and NSW governments’ response to Omicron.
The respected multidisciplinary group OzSAGE has described their strategy as a “shambolic mess … that will condemn many people to death”, especially among the vulnerable.
“The only example Australia is providing to the world now is a warning about what not to do with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Kerryn Phelps, a former president of the AMA and an OzSAGE member.
In aged care the federal govern-ment’s hands-off approach has had “heartbreaking consequences”, say experts.
Even Scott Morrison’s and Dominic Perrotet’s economic arguments for “letting it rip” have been skewered by experts.
“Letting people that are at high risk of having or spreading the infection return to work quickly helps the labour supply this week, and harms the labour supply in the coming weeks when it spreads. This is the definition of short-termism (and) we now have a COVID-induced labour supply problem,” said Richard Deniss, chief economist at the Australia Institute.
Nurses speak out
Many nurses have shown remarkable courage to speak out about what is happening in our public hospitals and our aged care system.
Since the start of the year, at least 40 members have spoken to the media. This has led to hundreds and hundreds of stories on radio, online, TV and in newspapers making sure all our communities know what nurses are going through right now and the impact that has on patient care.
I know the situation in hospitals and aged care facilities is incredibly tough and I’ve heard from members how exhausted, frustrated and angry they are feeling.
Nurses are absolutely right to be furious with the NSW and federal governments. Their actions and inactions have led us to this crisis. Their persistence in saying the system is coping reveals a complete disregard for the truth.
It is outrageous that NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet continues to spin the lie that our public healthcare system is ‘strong’. He repeats this lie while you are exhausted, working excessive overtime and are short-staffed. Patient care is suffering.
It is unforgivable that aged care nurses are struggling to have access to appropriate PPE with many not even fit tested. It is outrageous that the Morrison government asks people to rely on RATs, knowing ordinary working families can’t get access to them. It is diabolical that RATs are not available in nursing homes while many aged care residents still await their booster.
We need to challenge the dishonest government narrative that our hospitals are “coping”. It is only nurses’ commitment and goodwill holding our public health and aged care systems together and it will be our collective actions that can bring change.
I encourage all of you to get active, speak out and share your stories and experiences.
The public needs to know the truth about the dire state of our health system and the threat this poses to our patients.