Exhausted New South Wales health workers are being forced to return from Christmas recess as hospitals and testing facilities are crippled by rising Covid numbers and staff leave.
About 2,000 health workers have been put on leave across the state after being listed as close contacts, prompting NSW Health to reduce the isolation time for health workers from two weeks to seven days on condition that ‘they return a negative PCR test.
Health Services Union Secretary Gerard Hayes welcomed the change but said immense stress was placed on a hospital system at the breaking point and workers were now under pressure to return from leave.
“We are seeing all these additional pressures … the ambulance service is speeding up the exit of students from college, with hospital workers coming back from leave and 200 people on a permanent basis for 12 months just trying to get through this period,” he said. he declares.
Hayes said the next four weeks will be the ultimate test for the healthcare system.
“When you have 2,000 people on leave a day, it’s ultimately not sustainable,” he said.
“We have a bit of a break because the vaccines seem to work and the presentations are nowhere near as important as they used to be.
“But we are seeing 6,000 cases a day and probably more. If that submission rate increases, that would be incredibly problematic. “
Covid hospitalizations have more than tripled in the past fifteen weeks, rising to 557 on December 28, including 60 people in intensive care.
“Make sure you have the frustration of 18 months on the job, chronic fatigue, and then the frustration of missing Christmas and New Years, all of that extra pressure builds up,” Hayes said.
“We really go to great lengths to allow people to have time off because a lot has not been taken… people are tired. If they continue to insist, it could have long-term effects. People might start to quit the industry because everything is getting too much.
NSW Nurses and Midwives Association general secretary Brett Holmes said the system was under “enormous pressure” with “massive and continuing shortages” on the lists.
“Even without staff on leave, everywhere is extremely tight,” he said.
“We know that many nurses have been asked to voluntarily cancel leave, and we have a depleted workforce given the intensity of the past 18 months.”
“There are no easy solutions here, we have a long term problem with hospital staffing, and other problems will continue to arise,” he said.
Meanwhile, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Tuesday said staff across the state were “exhausted” with some labs working through the night to process Covid test results. 19.
Hazzard said he was “very concerned” about two misfires at St Vincent’s Hospital that resulted in around 1,400 people falsely receiving negative Covid test results when they were positive or intended for isolation. Of those, 886 people who were told they were negative tested positive.
In a statement, SydPath, the laboratory responsible for processing the tests, said that to cope with the “major increase” in test volumes, it had moved from an automated system to a manual system to speed up the publication of results. negative test results.
Hazzard said he made sure the hospital reviewed its protocol and procedures, but “when people are under pressure, human errors become more common.”
“There is just simply no more capacity … especially when some of these queues [for testing] are three and four kilometers long, ”he said.