Nurses left to clean up Perrottet’s ‘shambolic mess’
The nursing workforce barely has its head above water trying to manage a disaster of our governments’ making.
A report by an independent, multidisciplinary group of experts has laid bare the disastrous strategies of the NSW and federal governments to deal with the Omicron outbreak.
The OzSAGE report, compiled by an advisory group of experts in epidemiology, health and economics, is scathing of both governments’ “let it rip” policy, which it says will condemn vulnerable Australians to death.
One member of the group, Dr Kerryn Phelps, a former president of the AMA, told The Guardian that after an initially sound response to the coronavirus, “the only example Australia is providing to the world now is a warning about what not to do with the COVID-19 pandemic”.n
“How did Australia go from being the envy of the world, with our best practice public health measures, low case numbers, a prepared health system and an economy ticking along nicely, to what can only be described as a shambolic mess?” she said.
Dr Phelps was highly critical of the governments’ misleading public announcements.
“The population was softened up with a false narrative that ‘Omicron causes mild disease’, ‘this could be the gift we have been waiting for’, and ‘this could end the pandemic’.
“Perhaps the most insidious piece of messaging was the pronouncement that ‘everyone in Australia is going to get it’. In other words, why bother trying to prevent transmission?
“In one previously unimaginable act, the premier, in a double act with Scott Morrison, announced a lifting of all restrictions, including mandatory mask wearing and QR code check-ins.
“Despite the warnings that the health system was under pressure and that party season was about to kick off, the message to the community was: ‘Go out there and spend, head to the pub and get back to normal.’”
A public hospital system on the precipice
The OzSAGE report found the burden placed on the public hospital system was alarming and underreported.
“Our health system, stretched before COVID-19, has had its capacity eroded by staff resignations and a blow-out in waiting lists. The further impact on the health system, by the sheer number of Omicron cases, at this time of year especially, could be enormous.
“A person who has been hospitalised for COVID-19 is no longer counted in the hospital statistics once they have cleared the virus, even if they still require a high level of care. Therefore, the true number of hospitalisations for COVID-19 related disease accruing in the wards and ICU is not transparent to the public.
“We note that the shortage of staff is such that they are now asked to work after shorter isolation and that there is concern for burnout and fatigue.”
NSWNMA Acting General Secretary Shaye Candish says nurses and midwives are rightfully furious with the NSW and federal governments.
“Their actions and inactions have led us to this. Their persistence in saying the system is coping reveals a complete disregard for the truth,” she said.
“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 nurses and midwives are exhausted, working excessive overtime and still remain short-staffed. Patient care is suffering.”
Virus spreads like wildfire in aged care – again
On 14 January, more than 1100 aged care homes across Australia had reported new COVID outbreaks, with 7014 active cases in residents and aged care workers.
Experts have highlighted two failures that have left aged care residents and staff vulnerable: the “stroll out” of vaccine boosters and the scarcity of rapid antigen tests.
Shaye Candish says aged care nurses are “desperate” and are telling the Association that residents and staff are being placed at significant risk due to the severe lack of preparation by providers and the federal government.
“They are reporting a staffing crisis, a lack of access to suitable PPE, substandard infection control practices, and with many residents and staff still awaiting their booster. Some aged care facilities are being forced to ration rapid antigen tests, only using them every 72 hours,” she said.
“The Royal Commission into Aged Care identified significant issues with infection control across the sector. These issues have still not been addressed by the federal government, so it seems inevitable that residents without their booster shot and who are locked down in their facility will likely contract COVID-19.”