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COVID-19 update #23: Healthcare worker data dashboard, protecting healthcare workers and misleading WorkCover advice

COVID-19 update #23: Healthcare worker data dashboard, protecting healthcare workers and misleading WorkCover advice

Members are encouraged to read our newsflashes and the COVID-19 information for health workers provided on the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Commonwealth Department of Health websites.

Information is updated regularly. ANMF has collated the important links all in one place, so you don’t have to go looking. Please bookmark and check this page regularly –

Members with COVID-19-related employment questions can ask via the Member Assistance online inquiry form Please read the information on our website before submitting a question. Member Assistance is not taking phone inquiries as ANMF staff are working remotely. Members whom ANMF deems have complex inquiries will still have phone contact with staff.

The DHHS Coronavirus Guidance Note on Employment-Related Matters was last updated 20 July.

Latest coronavirus statistics in Victoria

Additional ANMF support for members

To provide additional support to members with urgent issues during this time, an ANMF staff member has been available on Saturdays and Sundays, between 8.45 and 5pm. To reach the on-call weekend contact, call the ANMF office number on 9275 9333.

You are not in this alone, call NMHPV before you feel overwhelmed

Did you know Victorian nurses, midwives, students of nursing and midwifery and aged care personal care workers have access to the independent, free and confidential mental health support, counselling and referral services?

The Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria is run by nurses and provides tailored support for the nursing, midwifery and personal carer workforce.

Since May the Andrews Government has provided NMHPV with an additional $600,000 so the service can respond to the increased need for its services during the pandemic.

Aged care single-site employment extended – metro Melbourne and Mitchell Shire

In late July the Commonwealth Government began funding residential aged care providers in metro Melbourne and Mitchell Shire to support employees, working at more than one residential aged care site, to limit their employment to only one residential aged care site.

The changes were originally in place for eight weeks from 27 July until 25 September. This has been extended to 26 October and may be further extended if required pending advice from the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments.

All aged care members have been sent a more detailed newsflash.

Protecting healthcare workers

The Healthcare Worker Infection Prevention and Wellbeing Taskforce continues to meet weekly to provide advice on strategies and processes to reduce work-acquired infections and improve healthcare worker wellbeing. ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick is a member of the taskforce.

Healthcare worker infections have significantly reduced since the August peak. Between 27 August to 2 September there were 154 new healthcare worker cases. This included 83 aged care or disability workers (a breakdown is not provided) 49 nurses and one midwife.

Data transparency – new healthcare worker data dashboard

Information about healthcare worker infections will be published weekly on a data dashboard to improve transparency and communication. View the Healthcare Worker COVID-19 data dashboard.

Healthcare workers must feel free to speak up

The taskforce is also promoting the need for organisations to support their healthcare workers to feel free to speak up if they see opportunities to reduce risk, such as changing practices.

Daily attestation

As of 4 September, healthcare workers, including students on clinical placement, are now required to confirm they are symptom free prior to starting a shift. This applies to public health services, private hospitals including private day procedure centres and residential aged care. Providers can establish a verbal or written attestation process. This measure was first reported in COVID-19 27 August newsflash.

Staff amenity audit

Health services have been asked to assess staff amenities against physical distancing standards of one person per four square metres; and at least 1.5 metres space between individuals in staff spaces to reduce person-to-person contact. Amenities include meal areas, tea rooms and break rooms, rest areas and bathrooms.

The self-assessment must be completed by 18 September. If existing spaces do not comply, health services have been asked to identify solutions. The DHHS and Building Standards Authority will provide support to implement alternatives.

Respiratory protection program

The taskforce has endorsed the development of a statewide Respiratory Protection Program (RPP) to minimise the risk of infection from airborne infectious disease. The RPP will include a range of protections including:

  • the appointment of a program administrator in each setting
  • selection of respiratory protections based on risk
  • training in requirements and use including fit checking
  • issuing Respiratory Protection Equipment (RPE)
  • fit-testing
  • record keeping and audit and evaluation of the RPP.

Over the coming weeks, taskforce members together with Worksafe Victoria will design a statewide RPP which will be implemented across Victorian healthcare facilities.

Evidence based policy

A COVID-19 Aerosol Hot Spot Analysis has been commissioned by the Victorian Health and Human Service Building Authority to identify potential ‘hot spots’ in clinical spaces. This study looks at aerosol behaviour and tracks small particles in the air as they are carried in the hospital airstreams determining when and where they hit surfaces and stick to them, creating hot spots. Once completed, guidance will be issued to health services to improve their understanding of hot spots and enhance cleaning and infection control processes.

The information above is from the Healthcare Worker Infection Prevention and Wellbeing Taskforce circular (3 September) [PDF].

Ignore misleading WorkCover advice

ANMF advises members that a WorkSafe Reference Number provides NO protection in relation to a WorkCover claim.

A number of members have contacted ANMF after being advised that they do not need to lodge a WorkCover claim yet, because their case has been notified to WorkSafe, and they have a ‘reference number’ which will protect them. This is factually incorrect. The reference number applies only to the employer’s obligation to notify WorkSafe if employees/ contractors test positive to COVID-19 and have been on site. The reference number is entirely unrelated to WorkCover claims, and provides no protection nor assurance that if needed, a WorkCover claim will be activated.

To access WorkCover entitlements, members are required to submit a WorkCover claim form, with a Certificate of Capacity completed by a doctor (in the first instance). If the claim is accepted, members will usually have their personal leave reimbursed and medical and like expenses covered for the life of the injury or illness.

ANMF understands that all claims made by healthcare workers, who have contracted COVID-19, have been accepted by the WorkCover insurer.

We also believe that some employers may be suggesting that workers are ‘better off’ not claiming under WorkCover and using their personal leave or some other form of leave whilst they are ill with COVID-19. This is also misleading.

Under Workcover an employee who is unable to work or has a limited capacity to work will receive weekly payments which are calculated at 95% of the employee’s Pre-injury/ Illness Average Weekly earnings (PIAWE) for the first 13 weeks of payments.  Given that the average weekly earnings used include the base rate of pay, penalty rates and shift allowances, and that personal leave is only calculated at the base rate of pay, there is often very little difference between PIAWE weekly payments and personal leave payments.

An accepted WorkCover claim will provide members with reassurance that any aggravation or recurrence of health-related issues associated with COVID-19, will also be covered in the future by reopening the original claim or referencing it in a new claim.

Given the variability of recovery times and ongoing health outcomes of people who have contracted COVID-19 infection are largely unknown, ANMF strongly encourages all members who contract COVID-19 at work (or suspect that this has occurred) to submit WorkCover claims. We will actively support and advise members throughout the WorkCover process.

It may be an offence for an employer to actively discourage or intimidate a worker into not making a WorkCover claim under the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2013. Please notify ANMF if this has occurred at your workplace.

For support with a claim or if you are being discouraged not to make a claim contact Member Assistance.

ANMF supports cautious re-opening plan to protect community and healthcare workers

On Sunday 6 September, Premier Daniel Andrews announced the government’s staged plan to re-open Victoria.

The four-stage plan for metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire and the rest of regional Victoria is available online.

While we share the same lock-down frustrations as all Victorians, ANMF supports the Andrews Government’s and Chief Health Officer’s cautious plan to re-open in a way that will protect the community and healthcare workers.

Nurses, personal care workers and midwives have felt the brutal brunt of Victoria’s COVID-19 second wave. The outbreak has severely tested our health and aged care systems and we must do everything possible to avoid that relentless pressure again because it is unsustainable.

 Summary of steps towards COVID Normal

From 11:59pm Sunday 13 September, some restrictions will be eased across Victoria. Regional Victoria and Melbourne Metro each have their own roadmaps, relating to how many active cases are currently in the community.

First step

  • Regional Victoria: First step only applies to Metro Melbourne.
  • Metro Melbourne (11:59pm 13 September): Expanded social interaction.

Second step

  • Regional Victoria (11:59pm 13 September): Social bubbles, visitors and staged return of education.
  • Metro Melbourne (28 September subject to trigger points and public health advice): Social bubbles, phased return of some workforces and education.

Third step

  • Regional Victoria (subject to trigger points and public health advice): Increased reopening for sport, recreation, ceremonies and special occasions.
  • Metro Melbourne (26 October subject to trigger points and public health advice): Major industries return, increased reopening for education, sport, recreation, ceremonies and special occasions.

Last step

  • Statewide (23 November subject to trigger points and public health advice): Increased numbers for gatherings and hospitality.

COVID normal

  • Statewide (subject to trigger points and public health advice): No restrictions for gatherings, visitors, hospitality or sport.

Important PPE guidance and infection control links

  1. DHHS PPE guidance (includes definitions of tiers and when N95 respirator masks should be worn)
  2. COVID-19 – PPE and levels of protection (20 July)
  3. DHHS COVID-19 – a guide to the conventional use of PPE (updated 27 August)
  4. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Infection Prevention and Control guideline (8 August)
  5. PPE for the provision of mental health care (1 September)
  6. PPE for community service providers for prevention of COVID-19 (1 September)
  7. Maternity and neonatal care during COVID-19 (18 August)
  8. Respiratory support for children during the COVID-19 emergency (updated 27 May)
  9. WorkSafe Victoria Managing coronavirus (COVID-19) risks: Healthcare and social assistance industry – Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)

Do you have a PPE concern?

ANMF continues to raise and resolve members’ issues at the PPE taskforce union consultation meetings. Members with concerns about PPE should:

  1. continue to raise and submit OHS incident reports with their employer as well as speaking directly with your manager
  2. involve your Health and Safety Rep if you have one
  3. contact ANMF via Member Assistance (include your report and response if applicable) for further support and advice if after you have raised your concerns they are not addressed by your employer.

Please see our ‘Protocols for entering your home and minimising the risk of infection’ poster at the end of this newsflash.

Frontline workers concert album member offer

The creators of the ANZAC Day Music from the Homefront concert for the fight against COVID-19 are offering the album to ANMF members as a digital download for $4.99.

This unique compilation of iconic songs and classic covers was recorded and broadcast for the ANZAC Day virtual concert event to honour the men and women of Australia’s armed services together with frontline workers in health and essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

100% of profits from Music From The Home Front will go to Support Act – Australia’s only charity delivering crisis relief services to artists, crew and music workers.

Please note: Mobile devices are generally not able to open redeemed files. Please use a desktop computer. Simply download, unzip and play, or add to your music player.

COVID-19 call out: be part of the nursing and midwifery exhibition

Victorian nurses and midwives are being asked to share their ‘caring under COVID-19’ experience and photographs as part of an exhibition to mark the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

The exhibition to be held at Her Place museum in East Melbourne will launch in early 2021. It is also expected to travel to regional Victoria.

Funded by the Victorian Government, the exhibition will be hosted in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services and Safer Care Victoria and is supported by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch).

National nursing, midwifery and personal care worker COVID-19 survey

The ANMF, in all states and territories, has partnered with the Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre at the University of South Australia to research the effects the Australian outbreak of COVID-19 has had on the nursing, midwifery, and personal care workforce.

Your experience will assist the ANMF to advocate for more improvements nationally that will lead to better workforce wellbeing, preparation, job satisfaction and quality of care.

The national 20-minute survey is open to nurses, midwives and personal care workers in all states and territories.

All members are encouraged to participate in the survey by 31 October. Please share the link with your colleagues.

Don’t bring it home: guide to minimise the risk of infection

A reminder that ANMF (Vic Branch) has developed a guide to assist you in relation to returning home from work after a shift.

Job Reps and HSRs are encouraged to print the poster which is part of the PDF newsflash. You can also download the ‘Protocols for entering your home and minimising the risk of infection’ A4 PDF poster.