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Greatest healthcare challenge of our times: nurses, midwives and carers need a COVID allowance now

Greatest healthcare challenge of our times: nurses, midwives and carers need a COVID allowance now

A message from Lisa Fitzpatrick

Bone-weary nurses and midwives are facing a surge of patients never seen before in our lifetime.

You are facing the most challenging stage of the pandemic. The timing has no regard for your desperate need of a break. Pandemics never do.

Your weariness is compounded by last year’s brutal outbreak and the increased patient demand, and demand on maternity services, following previous lockdowns.

You share the Victorian community’s lockdown fatigue. Nurses and midwives have lived with the restrictions too. But you also know opening up will translate into an unprecedented workload in health services for you and your colleagues. It’s taking a toll on all of you now and we know it will have an impact for some time.

Throughout the pandemic Premier Daniel Andrews and Health Minister Martin Foley have acknowledged and understood the incredible work of nurses and midwives.

But this acknowledgement and understanding of your roles is not enough.

The whole Andrews Government must recognise the nurses and midwives caring for sick COVID-19 patients with a substantial shift allowance.

A payment for every shift worked would recognise and help retain nurses and midwives in our health services during the most challenging period of our times — when you are needed the most.

Wearing PPE, as uncomfortable as it is, is a small part of this. This is about ensuring we have enough nurses and midwives working in acute areas of the health system that are on the precipice of the hospitalisation surge.

Such an allowance must recognise the different shift lengths. There must be a higher payment for a double shift. This allowance should be on top of regular allowances and penalties.

ANMF wants the payment back paid to the start of this lock down in August 2021.

And it must be paid for as long as we have COVID-19 patients and the nurses, midwives and carers caring for them are required to wear tier 2 and 3 PPE.

This may be until February or March next year. We don’t know.

The allowance won’t keep every nurse and midwife working. But if it is substantial, it will be a respectful financial incentive for many to keep making the sacrifices being asked of you until we see this through.

‘Living with COVID’ and the freedoms everyone is looking forward to will come at a price that Victorians have not well understood. The reality of relaxing restrictions while we have such high community transmission has arrived in Victoria.

Hospital surge preparations are well underway. We continue to urge the community to get vaccinated.

But we cannot pretend our health system will look like business as usual. We have to prepare for it to be unrecognisable for a period of time.

The State Government must invest in its and your ability to continue to care for extremely sick Victorians.

It must invest in our nursing and midwifery workforce, so you can continue to do the extraordinary work you have been doing for months on end — when we need you most. And so you are here when we can finally return to life after COVID-19 recognising the health ‘catch up’ will continue throughout 2022.

This is not an unreasonable ask.

It is an appropriate measure to meet the greatest healthcare challenge of our times.