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Byron Shire
January 23, 2022

Nurse speaks of virus impacts on hospitals

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This was lunch for thousands of Australians during the Christmas COVID boom. Photo Eve Jeffery

Late in the evening on December 31, while many were out celebrating the end of a trying year, NSW Health issued a media release saying that asymptomatic healthcare workers who are classified as ‘close contacts’ will, in exceptional circumstances, be permitted to leave self-isolation so these key services are not disrupted.

Under the exemption, healthcare workers who have been identified by their employer as critical to the service, must travel directly to, and from, their residence to their workplace. 

The rest of us have had it drummed into us that close contacts needed to isolate for 14, then ten days, and more recently seven days, and social media has been deluged with photos of breakfast trays outside bedroom doors as the COVID boom hit over Christmas.

The exemption is to ‘ensure continued delivery of essential health services’. Surprisingly, the health system hasn’t broken. Yet.

Government too busy looking after business interests

A local critical care nurse spoke to The Echo. Owing to strict laws around speaking out as a government employee, the nurse spoke to The Echo anonymously.   

‘The government has got no commitment to a greater public good. I think that they are too busy looking after business interests to give a damn about the fact that public health only works when all of our most vulnerable people are included’.

‘I think that that they have failed us on a multitude of things that they should have attended to’. 

This nurse says they do feel safe in the workplace.

‘I actually feel safer at work than going to the supermarket, even when I’m caring for COVID-positive patients’.

The wonderful clinicians

The nurse said that what hospitals are lacking in resources, they make up for with wonderful clinicians.

‘We don’t have enough isolation and safe rooms. I feel concern for other patients who might not have COVID-19. We don’t have good enough ventilation, and we’re all sharing the same air conditioning, suspected COVID-19 or positive COVID-19 cases – we don’t have enough places to treat those people, to examine and clear for them – without exposing other people to risk.’

They also said that most, if not all, clinicians are working more hours.

Working above contracted hours

‘I’ve have worked up to 80 and 90 hours a fortnight. I come in early for a night shift and end up staying late and working 16 hours instead of ten. Everybody is working above their contracted hours.’

‘Staff are working a lot more hours, and shifts are still not fully staffed.’

Are the patients safe? The nurse says nearly every emergency department in NSW has a marquee in the car park.

‘If you think you have COVID-19, you have to go and wait outside in the car park, but the marquees are often not staffed by anyone. It means that you have patients now that have presented for care who’ve been sent outside who haven’t been seen by a nurse and might wait for some time. Once assessed as stable there’s often limited observation. The unstable COVID-19 come into the department because we have to provide care – we can’t not provide care.

‘To date, we are keeping people safe and we want people to come to hospital if they’re sick, we’re just worried about how we will maintain this.’

Terrifying watching this unravel

The nurse says that, as a clinician, they don’t feel concern for themselves, but as a community member, they are terrified. ‘I care greatly about the health of our whole community, and the robustness of our health system. It’s terrifying watching this unravel. I do feel like I doom scroll a lot because I am looking at the numbers and they’re completely meaningless. We already know that many testing sites were closed over Christmas. We’ve got a greater than 20 per cent positive rate from the PCR tests, which means we’re completely screwed. It’s the biggest growth in numbers across the world at the moment. I feel concerned on the macro level.’

The nurse said they feel some staff are coping better than others.

‘I think all of us are anxious – really anxious and stressed. All of us are exhausted, but, mostly we’re hanging in there. We laugh a lot. We make a lot of really bad jokes. We roll our eyes like Angela Merkel. I think clinicians are really good at informal debriefing – certainly, there is no time to do formal debriefing.

‘We do a lot of collective hand waving and saying “What the…?” ‘


 

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I cannot express enough my admiration and greatfulness to our heroic and compassionate Health workers, thank you all for your care and sacrifice.
    I too, am increasingly despairing of the outrageous neglect of the community by Scott Morrison and Dominic Perrottet’s govermnents.
    I hope I live through this catastrophe long enough to tell them so at the ballot box.

  2. Very greatful for your big hearts. Thanks also to their family’s who are missing out on precious family time due to extended shifts. Bless you all.

  3. Those people who chose not to get vaccinated are the very ones that are blocking up the system. These people selfishly have taken NO action to protect themselves and are now taking beds and resources from people in genuine need. The heroes in the medical fraternity have to give all equal treatment to all, when many have brought ill health on themselves.
    The country would have enough resources to support all those that had made the unselfish measure of getting vaccinated, but now find that age and underlying medical issues require them to seek medical support.
    I feel extremely sorry for nurses that have to deal with ill people whose non action has led them to now ask for help and support. In my mind it’s tantamount to having to deal with battered bodies in car accidents when people refuse to wear their seat belts.

    • Chris Hill has correctly identified the moral hazard issue of our time.

      I have raised it with my MP, asking her what she will do to ensure vaccinated people who succumb to covid do not get left untreated in hospital hallways and carparks while those unvaccinated by choice get treated in a hospital bed or ICU. Janelle’s response is to ignore my question, about ICU triage should ICU be overwhelmed, with a response that we “treat all” and she supports that. That is, compete refusal to answer my question, preferring to support the status quo of people unvaccinated by choice being treated ahead of vaccinated people. I have the screenshots of this dialogue with Janelle where she refuses to grapple with the issue of ICU triage and vaccinated status

      This is an appalling lack of leadership by Janelle Saffin, not worthy of a place in our parliament.

      • I’m sorry Shane but that is a very unrealistic problem put to your local member, obviously asked to put her in a corner where either answer is wrong. How about asking that to local nat federal member hogan or your favourite pork barreller Franklin. I think the evidence about unvaccinated treated over vaccinated is a furphy, next are you proposing smokers with cancer are not treated etc. I think you would find triage decisions are made by the hospital not the local member. Wedging politics displayed here are indicative of the Tory government both at state and federal level. Very shallow.

      • She is obviously one of those people who doesn’t agree with holding a principle lest she may upset someone or they may not vote for her. If she looked hard at the statistics, over 90% of the population have made the effort to protect their health and the community. I would guess that the majority would feel that should get some sort of priority if their health deteriorated, over people who have been genuinely self centred. But then; Janelle probably believes it doesn’t matter if you won or lost, it’s taking part which is important. Dead losers

  4. Not a lot to say except that apart from Saffin’s non answer it’s a tough call. We are
    going through a different ‘war of worlds’ & to expect a reply to balance all is damn
    near impossible. We cannot & should not turn non-believers away let alone their
    often extended family who’ve had the jabs. Decisions are running head-on & I’ve
    known some anti-vaxers to do a ‘turn around.’ Many are doing that now while
    a life for a life can’t be supported. Personally, I could not live with that decision.
    Having said that, I will state what I believe to be the truth & say ‘Get it over & done
    with. Grow up.’

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