The underfunded NSW public sector is straining under the demand of Australia’s mismanaged shift to COVID-normal.
Desperate managers of Sydney hospitals are recalling COVID-positive staff to work in hospitals now crammed to breaking point. Late on Monday, Guardian Australia reported having been contacted by nurses from different NSW hospitals alarmed to find themselves working alongside COVID-positive colleagues.
“God help any non-COVID patient in a hospital right now,” a nurse told Guardian Australia. “They are sitting ducks.”
In response to the story, NSW Health confirmed that COVID-positive nurses are required to stay at home. But nurses said the advice that they return to work was given to them unofficially, in light of the workload strain of NSW hospitals. The health department has been paying hundreds of dollars in daily bonuses to acquire staff over the holiday period.
The secretary of the Nursing and Midwives’ Association said the move to allow COVID-positive staff in hospitals “shows the level of desperation we’ve got.” Reports are emerging that “even the most routine urgent treatments” are being cancelled. Emergency room waits have extended out to over a day.
Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Dom Perrottet continue to insist the health system is managing fine.
But the desperation in the underfunded public sector runs deeper than just the health system. Australia Post workers have been told they will not be able to take leave after testing positive for the coronavirus if they are asymptomatic.
Staff who develop symptoms can stay home for two days, but must return to work afterwards if they no longer have symptoms. Their fellow workers are not defined as close contacts, and if they wish to get tested they would have to do so on their own time.
Given current wait times for a test, this means staff would have to wait until the following weekend, at the earliest, before they could obtain a test. Of course, the changes to the definition of a close contact also mean that members of the public interacting with Australia Post workers would not be informed if the worker was COVID-positive.
These developments obviously make a mockery of workers’ right to a safe workplace. They also make life very challenging for those who wish to strictly avoid exposure to the virus.
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Article image courtesy of @theeastlondonphotographer and feature image courtesy of @chrishcush via Unsplash.