ANMF (Vic Branch) is continuing to call on Victorians to show their support for nurses, midwives and carers by wearing masks when they can’t socially distance.
ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick re-issued the union’s strong encouragement of masks while giving evidence before the Victorian parliamentary committee reviewing pandemic orders.
Ms Fitzpatrick’s evidence before the Pandemic Declaration Accountability and Oversight Committee on 16 June included detailing the ‘enormous pressures’ on ANMF members since the start of the pandemic.
An increased visibility of masks in the community would offer healthcare workers hope by demonstrating people were taking the pandemic ‘seriously’ and cared about the ongoing pressures on the workforce and the health system.
‘You go to the supermarket or you go on public transport or you might go to an activity like an outside sporting activity and you see people wearing masks, it actually makes you feel that people are taking it seriously and that they are doing their bit,’ Ms Fitzpatrick said.
Increased wearing of masks would help slow the transmission of COVID and other respiratory viruses like influenza and ease the pressures on the health and aged care systems over the winter months.
Three years into the pandemic Victorians should no longer need mask mandates or a government telling people what to do, to know when they should be wearing protection to reduce the risk for themselves, their loved ones, the community and the health system.
More vaccine data needed to boost ‘disheartening’ third dose rates
ANMF has also called on the Victorian health department and the Andrews Government to release more data to the public about the effectiveness of vaccination on hospitalisation, severe illness and death.
ANMF believes public access to more data will help educate the community about the importance of the third dose and raise the third dose vaccination rate from its current ‘disheartening’ 68 per cent level.
Speaking before the parliamentary committee, Ms Fitzpatrick said long vaccination queues for the second dose had given nurses administering the vaccines ‘hope’.
The slow uptake of the third dose meant ANMF members did ‘not feel that they are being taken seriously or that COVID is being taken seriously’.
Ms Fitzpatrick told the parliamentary committee the third dose rate had stagnated for months and made nurses midwives and carers, who were working in the stressed health system, feel ‘very alone’.
ANMF members, particularly those in wards and units impacted by workforce shortages ‘desperately want to be able to nurse and be midwives like they used to be and provide the care that they used to be able to’.
She emphasised it was not only metropolitan services that were impacted, but also regional health services that were struggling with the added pressure of not having ‘the same access to a backup casual workforce’ as Melbourne hospitals.
ANMF members were ‘very desperate to be listened to and to have action taken that actually supports the reduction of COVID cases in the community, the transmission of COVID, including vaccination levels increasing so that people do not become as unwell as they would with only two doses of the vaccine.’
‘To be quite frank, they [ANMF members] cannot understand why they are not getting that level of support [from the community]. They just cannot believe it,’ she said.
Pandemic declaration extended to manage winter challenges
On 5 July, Premier Daniel Andrews announced an extension to the state’s pandemic declaration for another three months to enable Victoria to continue to manage the challenges of winter.
‘I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that there continues to be a serious risk to public health throughout Victoria due to the coronavirus disease which requires continued public health and other protective measures to reduce the risk of transmission and hospitalisation,’ Mr Andrews said.
There are 94.6 per cent of Victorians over 12 years who have received two vaccine doses against coronavirus and over 68.4 per cent of Victorians over 16 years who have received a third dose.
The pandemic declaration has been extended from 11.59pm, Tuesday 12 July to 11.59pm, Tuesday 12 October 2022.