We are in uncertain times.
The pressure on nurses, midwives and carers is growing.
Many of you have felt the brunt of a frustrated and anxious public. I would particularly like to acknowledge all of our members working tirelessly in the screening clinics, emergency departments and GP clinics, and across the health and aged care sectors.
Importantly, Victoria is leading the way announcing measures designed to get ahead of the rise in COVID-19 infections. This is a deliberate move to ultimately help ease the pressure on health services.
From Tuesday 24 March, Victorian schools and non-essential businesses have closed.
These measures will be welcomed by some nurses, midwives and carers. Some may be concerned. Others may be worried about the financial impact on their family.
We are in discussions with the Department of Health and Human Services about the impact of school closures for members who have sole responsibility for their children.
We’re also in discussions about your concerns in relation to PPE availability, protocols to protect nurses, midwives and carers, protecting your family and increased testing of the health workforce and non-COVID-19 patients and pregnant women.
We have also asked for hospitals to show leniency to graduates who may need to access more personal leave than they have accrued.
We also know some of you have concerns about workforce.
We’re contributing to the work around workforce supply. This includes the important role our registered undergraduate students of nursing (RUSONs) can play. RUSONs are second- and third-year students employed by hospitals. They undertake general nursing activities under the delegation and supervision of registered nurses.
I also hope this Victorian program will be extended to our registered undergraduate students of midwifery (RUSOMs).
ANMF members fought hard for these important roles when they successfully stopped the then Baillieu government substituting nurses and midwives with health assistants in nursing in the 2011-12 ‘Respect Our Work’ public sector EBA. The RUSON role was included in our 2016 public sector nurses and midwives enterprise agreement and a number of private acute EBAs. Over recent years the role has been introduced into many metropolitan and regional health facilities with very positive evaluations and feedback from members.
We’re also heartened by the number of nurses and midwives asking how they can help. We’ve been contacted by registered and enrolled nurses who don’t work in acute care, recently retired nurses and midwives, and others who’ve kept their registration but need some additional education to help them to be work ready.
An increase in COVID-19 patients in our health services may mean additional nurses and midwives are required. You can express your interest to the Department of Health and Human Services and let your friends know. We will be working with the department as we did during the bushfire disaster earlier this year to help provide additional support where it is needed.
We will deliver a ‘re-orientation to acute update course’ for registered and enrolled nurses who would like an update or are not currently working in the acute sector.
We’re also working with the Mental Health Branch of DHHS raising our members’ concerns. We’re proactively proposing what our important mental health nurses need, not only for themselves but also for their patients.
These are just some examples of our work behind the scenes for you and the community.
If you’re casually employed or work part-time hours, I am confident there will be additional work.
If you are employed in the private, not-for-profit or local government sectors, we have asked your employer to confirm they will use the DHHS guidance on COVID-19-employment-related matters. As we receive responses, we will publish them on our COVID-19 web page so you can keep informed.
We will share information and respond to your questions as soon as we can.
I want to assure ANMF members that your union will be there for you during the challenging times ahead.
We are adapting and developing creative solutions to overcome the challenges we face as a union with 160 staff supporting those on the front line.
We’re fast-tracking plans to ensure we can continue to provide member services as our ANMF staff start to work from home.
We can’t transfer our call center phone technology into staff homes. This means all initial inquiries will have to be online, which many of you are already familiar with. If there is an issue at your workplace and you need ANMF’s support, advice or representation please submit a Member Assistance inquiry form.
Please understand there are some delays as we deal with an unprecedented volume of member inquiries. We are prioritising the most urgent. These delays will be temporary.
We will of course still be talking to members with complex issues, advising and supporting them by phone and teleconference.
The World Health Organisation’s decision to make 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife seems more appropriate now than ever.
This will test all of us.
ANMF will be there for you every step of the way.
ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary