With the peak of Australia’s fourth wave of COVID-19 still at least a month away and our hospitals nearing capacity, it’s a challenging time to be a nurse or midwife right now. So many members are telling the QNMU they are going above and beyond, working overtime and extra shifts, and as a result are fatigued.
Now more than ever, it’s important to ensure nurses and midwives look after themselves. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) is very clear (and has communicated to the QNMU) that it is your responsibility to manage your own fatigue. That means saying no if you do not feel safe to work unreasonable overtime that might impact on patient/resident care.
Even in extraordinary circumstances, your safety must always come first, and you must never work outside your scope of practice.
Managers also have a responsibility under the Work Health and Safety Act to prevent their employees becoming fatigued. Part of this means employers should conduct a risk assessment when asking staff to work overtime, and to mitigate these risks wherever possible.
The QNMU is having regular discussions with Queensland Health and the federal Department of Health (which oversees the private aged care sector) to ensure your concerns are heard at the top levels of decision-making.
While much of the situation might feel outside your control, there are still some simple things you can do to help get through:
- Ensure you have received all your COVID-19 vaccinations, including your fourth dose if you are eligible. Vaccines remain our best defence against acute illness.
- If you don’t have access to enough personal protective equipment (PPE) or are not being appropriately fit tested and checked, escalate through the appropriate channels, as outlined in this public sector resource, and this private sector resource.
- Escalate your workload concerns at the local level through workload reporting forms – having a written record of what occurred and what you did about it is the best way to protect yourself.
- Again, say no if you are asked to work overtime or extra shifts and you do not feel safe to do so.
Remember to keep visiting www.qnmu.org.au/Coronavirus for all the latest information and resources, including leave arrangements, PPE guides, and FAQs.
Other important updates
Pandemic leave - Queensland Health
Pandemic leave arrangements still apply to all public sector employees (including casuals). Currently, you do need to access your sick leave before you can use any paid pandemic leave.
However, Queensland Health (QH) recently committed to reversing this, and any sick leave used to date for COVID-19 purposes will be backdated to 14 December 2021. We are seeking clarification with QH on when these changes will be implemented.
In the meantime, read our FAQs on leave entitlements here.
Don't have access to sick leave?
The Federal Government recently reintroduced paid pandemic leave payments. Anyone who does not have access to leave entitlements (including private sector and aged care casual nurses and midwives) and who cannot work because they are required to isolate due to COVID-19 is eligible to receive payments of up to $750.
Other eligibility criteria also apply, including if are caring for a child under 16 who has COVID-19, or you are a close contact. Read more about the payment here.
Aged care: Are you required to take a RAT before your shift?
Many aged care employers are requiring workers to test negative for COVID-19 via a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) regularly or before they start every shift.
While we welcome providers taking this safety measure, we believe that workers who are required to do this must be paid for the time they spend undertaking a RAT (generally 15 minutes), including outside their rostered hours.
The QNMU has already had success with convincing one provider to compensate their employees, and we recently commenced a case in the Fair Work Commission against another provider.
So if you are required to undergo a RAT and you are not being paid for the time it takes, contact your QNMU Organiser.
Private hospitals: Are correct safety measures in place?
A large number of COVID-19 patients are now being cared for in private hospitals. While this is helping ease the burden on our public hospital system, it’s vital that private hospital members are confident the correct workplace health and safety measures are in place.
This includes ensuring you have access to plenty of PPE and that you are being appropriately fit tested and checked.
If you have any concerns regarding your health and safety or workloads, submit a workload concern form and immediately speak with your line manager.