Public health employee information for COVID-19
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association is providing support and advice to any members seeking information regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Join the NSWNMA to ensure you’re covered at work.
The Commonwealth Department of Health website contains detailed guidance for health sector workers and is updated regularly.
If members are concerned their employer is not following these guidelines, the NSWNMA can provide assistance to ensure appropriate measures are in place. Contact us.
Special paid leave
Thanks to ongoing NSWNMA negotiations around leave entitlements, NSW Health employees will have access to 20 days of paid special leave (for COVID-19) prior to a accessing their own accrued leave. This will be granted to employees who are unable to work because they are:
- Self-isolating due to travel or close contact COVID-19 exposure (exclusions apply)
- Caring for family members sick with COVID-19
- Caring for family members due to closure of school/daycare; and/or
- Unable to attend work due to transport disruptions or workplace closure
Where an employee is self-isolating on special leave and becomes sick for any reason; at that point the employee should transition onto sick leave. Where sick leave is exhausted, Health Agencies may grant additional sick leave on a case by case basis.
Those who travelled overseas from 16 March 2020, despite current notifications, will NOT be granted paid special leave to cover isolation upon return to Australia.
For travel prior to 16 March 2020, the entitlement to paid special leave will be dependent on the Smartraveller advice level on the date of their departure (see previous advice dependent if alert status was Level 1, or Levels 2-4)
Employees who remain overseas and are unable to return
Available FACS leave can be used for employees unable to return home due to COVID-19. Districts should be flexible with other leave requests (e.g. ADO, Annual and Long Service Leave and Leave without pay if FACS leave has been exhausted). Special paid leave is not granted for this purpose.
Staff Returning from Overseas Travel
From 12am on 16 March 2020, return to Australia from any overseas travel requires 14 days isolation.
Staff who returned to Australia from overseas between 2 March 2020 and midnight 15 March 2020, should also not attend work until 14 days have elapsed since their return from overseas. In settings where the absence of the healthcare worker will have a significant impact on health services, a case-by-case risk assessment will be undertaken with input from the Public Health Unit. Work from home arrangements may be arranged where appropriate.
Official Work Related Travel Arrangements for All Overseas and Domestic Travel (Including TESL)
All official overseas travel is to be cancelled. Domestic travel remains restricted to essential travel only.
Attendance at meetings and conferences
Outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people and indoor gatherings of more than 100 people are not to proceed in accordance with the public health orders on 23 March and 24 March. NOTE: An indoor gathering takes place within a single enclosed area (i.e. a single room or venue).
Essential activities such as healthcare settings, pharmacies, food shopping, schools, workplaces and public transport are not included in this restriction. However, social distancing and good hygiene practices should be applied in these settings where possible.
Previous full advice by the Committee includes the specific recommendation that mitigation strategies include: “limiting non-essential meetings or conferences of critical workforce e.g. healthcare professionals and emergency services”.
Healthcare workers who are either pregnant , aged 65 years or older, or who have underlying medical conditions that place them at greater risk of severe complications from COVID-19, should be re-deployed, wherever possible, to clinical areas and duties that have reduced exposure to patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.
Medical conditions associated with a greater risk of severe complications from COVID-19 include:
- people with chronic medical conditions, such as lung disease, heart disease, kidney disease, neurological conditions and diabetes
- people with impaired immune systems (such as people who have cancer or HIV, or who take high dose corticosteroids).
Clinical areas with an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 include emergency departments, infectious disease units and intensive care units. Facilities may also identify other areas of increased risk related to how COVID-19 patients are managed within the facility. Click here for more info.
A $2.4 billion health package has been released to support primary care, aged care, hospitals, research and the national medical stockpile.
Other useful resources
NSW Health is continuing to provide comprehensive information, fact sheets and updates about COVID-19 here.
More COVID-19 / Flu clinics are being established within all Local Health Districts to assess and diagnose patients with possible COVID-19 infections and other respiratory illness, such as influenza, as winter approaches.
NSW Health has existing policies for an operational response to COVID-19 and the emergency department preparedness for an influx of patients. Both guidelines below are from the NSW Health Influenza Pandemic Plan:
The NSWNMA will continue to provide further updates for members as we receive them. Information contained on this page is current as of 25 March 2020. Contact us here.