As restrictions ease across the state, it’s expected that COVID-19 cases presenting for hospitalisation will increase, at least until vaccination coverage meets the required threshold across all regions. The hospital surge is expected to last until February 2022, further exacerbating the extraordinary pressures on members in an already-stretched system.
The Branch has been receiving inquiries from an increasing number of members on parental and long service leave seeking advice on returning to work to assist with the surge workforce. Members are telling us they are concerned for and want to help their colleagues who are facing a rise in hospitalisations. ANMF is also aware of members on WorkCover returning to help in areas such as the Hospital in the Home virtual wards.
Alongside our members, many ANMF staff have also been inspired to pull their scrubs back on and pitch in on the frontline on their days off.
Melbourne-based industrial relations organisers Jenna Nelson, Belinda Connor and Jackie Corbishley are all doing some clinical shifts in emergency departments in order to help out their colleagues. Jackie, whose background is in ED critical care, intensive care and as a New Zealand Defence Force medic, admires the unfaltering support that the ED teams offer to each other. ‘You know you always have your colleagues to help get you through even the toughest shifts,’ she says, acknowledging that she wanted to be there during the surge to do just that for her ED colleagues.
Helping out with COVID testing and vaccinating are industrial relations organisers Nicole Brown, who will also be doing some PPE spotting, and Natalie Davies. For Natalie, who had 10 years in acute general medical prior to joining the ANMF as an organiser, working as a nurse vaccinator at the Northern Health vaccination clinic at Plenty Ranges Arts & Community Centre is rewarding, and she is full of praise for her ‘absolutely amazing’ colleagues.
In Bendigo, registered nurse and midwife and ANMF (Vic Branch) industrial relations organiser Loretta Marchesi has also joined the vaccination workforce. ‘I could see that there was a significant number of staff needed to assist with the COVID-19 vaccination effort and COVID surge and I wanted to help,’ she says. ‘Working in PPE of N95s face masks and face shields has been an interesting challenge and I can certainly empathise with our nurses who are doing this on a full-time basis.’
‘Since the start of the pandemic, I have felt more than ever before the need to contribute and support my now very fatigued colleagues and provide some of the support our members most need – more hands on deck.’
Mark Staaf has been a professional officer with ANMF since 2005, and prior to that an industrial organiser. During his time with ANMF he has continued to work clinically at Austin Health, doing regular weekend shifts in ICU as a critical care registered nurse. He’s also an immunisation nurse so has been helping out in the Austin’s vaccination clinics, and has also been assisting as a community home visiting nurse in the hospital in the home program.
‘I have always continued to maintain clinical practice as an adjunct to the policy and professional work that I do at the Branch,’ he says. ‘Since the start of the pandemic, I have felt more than ever before the need to contribute and support my now very fatigued colleagues and provide some of the support our members most need – more hands on deck. I am so privileged to work with such a fantastic team of nurses, doctors, physios and other allied health and support staff. It really is a huge team effort and I am proud to support my friends, colleagues and the Victorian health system any way I can.’
ANMF leadership are also joining the surge workforce as volunteers, with Assistant Secretary Madeleine Harradence returning to weekend shifts in St Vincent’s emergency department, and Branch Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick working Saturdays as a PPE spotter at Royal Melbourne Hospital emergency department. Speaking to Neil Mitchel on 3AW on 18 October, Lisa said ‘I think a lot of people can make a contribution. People really do want to try and help.’