The state government has just revealed that they are thinking of lifting COVID-19 isolation for healthcare workers. This is in the context of more than 2000 health staff furloughed across the state. As case numbers rise, and Omicron spreads, the government is scrambling to keep up. The already poorly staffed public health system is strained to its limits. Resources spent.

What does this mean for healthcare workers?

As a frontline worker it does not come as a surprise to hear that the government plans to apply different rules to healthcare workers. With already questionable decisions being made by management, such as lack of appropriate precautions for possible COVID positive patients and limited personal protective equipment this is another blow to health professionals.

Countless doctors have been exposed to COVID positive patients without appropriate protective equipment for multiple days in my hospital, and been deemed ‘low risk’. This means that you are expected to keep working, and not get swabbed.

Photo by Adam Niescioruk from Unsplash

Lack of testing resources

Rapid antigen testing is not made readily available to staff. We are advised not to be tested if not symptomatic, even if exposed. When I told my senior that I wanted to be tested after my exposure and asked how I could do so (I was on night shifts) they said I would just have to go to a public clinic.

Clinics that have three hour long waits. How can a healthcare worker be expected to stand for three hours to get tested between 12 hour night shifts, when they were exposed at work.

PCR tests are now taking over 72 hours to come back, and this is just not acceptable for those workers who need to be back at their shift within 12 hours.

We are expected to keep working with pending PCRs, unless symptomatic, putting our fellow staff and patients at risk…

The system is crumbling, and testing centres cannot keep up with demand.

Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

Lack of protection

Healthcare workers are now expected to wear surgical masks and goggles at all times. Surgical masks are not effective in stopping the spread of COVID, they may reduce risk, but it can still happen.

N95/P95s are a ‘precious resource’ and limited. So we are asked by executive staff to only wear it with patients on COVID precautions. This means we do not have appropriate protection from COVID the majority of the time.

The health minister says healthcare workers can keep working if they’re a close contact because we have appropriate protective equipment. Well, we actually don’t often have access to this.

Photo by Habib Dadkhah on Unsplash

Feeling disposable

The fact that the public are going to have different treatment to healthcare workers is another slap in the face.

We are constantly understaffed, underpaid and working overtime. Rostered weekends, nights, evenings and public holidays. Often not able to see family or friends due to work commitments.

Frontline workers are putting themselves at risk to help the community, and it seems that our government’s only response is to show little regard for our wellbeing.

Whole hospitals have cancelled leave for their doctors. I was asked to cancel mine (leave that you often wait 1-2 years to get approved).

We are all burnt out and the job is seeming more and more thankless.

The government appears to approach healthcare workers as disposable. Only caring that there is a body at work, rather than looking at us as people with emotions and lives.

When struggling with mental health you have to ‘battle through it’, often just getting a doctor suicide hotline number emailed to you, rather than actual help or compassion. Yes this did happen.

We deserve much better.

Photo by Artem Kniaz on Unsplash

Where to next?

All I can imagine is that eventually the whole world will be infected with Omicron. It’s very contagious and spreading rapidly. Even being triple vaccinated does not stop the spread.

Hopefully there will only be mild symptoms, and soon the world will be ‘used’ to the virus. Turning it from an epidemic into an endemic virus. Like the flu, where you only stay at home when feeling sick, not needing to be tested.

In the meantime I hope the government and public will support healthcare workers better. Treating us as people, not a faceless work force.

What we need:

  • More healthcare workers
  • Paid COVID leave
  • Access to proper protective equipment
  • Better access to RAT and PCR tests
  • Free accommodation to isolate away from family members
  • A pay rise!
Phoyo by Emily Underworld on Unplash