Open letter: Health workers are running on empty

Published: 10 January 2022 

As we know, COVID-19 has thrown us yet another curve ball with the latest Omicron variant. 
It is more virulent that previous variants and is spreading more rapidly than we could have anticipated. The coming weeks in Queensland will be critical, with a peak in community transmission anticipated at the end of January. And let’s not forget, the Delta variant is also still with us.
Our members, the nurses and midwives of Queensland, and other health workers are steadfastly focused on keeping our community safe. Health workers are running on empty, experiencing physical and emotional exhaustion after almost two years of pandemic response. 
This is being made more difficult as widespread community Omicron transmission has seen health workers exposed and in isolation or quarantine. As a result, our public and private health and aged care systems are under enormous pressure.
This pressure is causing health workers to experience moral distress. They are deeply concerned about their ability to deliver the highest quality care. In an emergency situation like this, we are forced to triage the most essential work. Hopefully the Omicron outbreak will peak in coming weeks and pressure will be relieved.
However, the community can play an important role in helping health workers meet these challenges. Simple measures that will help us include:
  • Stay at home – we know testing is hard to access so if you can’t easily test just assume you’re positive and stay home. Those who can work from home need to do so now. Our members don’t have this luxury, so please think of them when you consider going out to socialise. Know your small sacrifice will help keep them safe
  • Test. If you can access a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) – and supplies should be coming in soon – please ensure you register positive results at the Queensland Health (QH) portal 
  • Vaccinate. Make sure you’re vaccinated. Get your 2nd dose and booster as soon as eligible
  • Wear masks, socially distance and check in. We all know the drill, please just do it
  • Be kind. These are stressful times, but we again ask you treat health and other essential services workers with respect
  • Follow expert advice:
  • Tell the Prime Minister you support free RAT testing for all Australians. Mr Morrison must coordinate and fund a universal national response to testing - sign the petition
We can all help relieve pressure on our health and aged care systems at this critical time. There have been a lot of words of acknowledgment but saying thank you is not enough. We must all act now.
It will be tough and we are all anxious, but we must remain focused on getting through this together. The federal and state governments must provide funding for the vital resources like staffing, PPE and testing required to keep health workers safe.  They must also be empowered to get on and do their vital jobs. Working together with a common purpose, not just letting it rip, will see us through.
The vulnerabilities in our health and aged care systems remain - highlighted again by COVID. While we remain focused on addressing these systemic problems – right now we must focus on the vital task at hand. Stay safe everyone.
Warmest Regards,

Beth Mohle 
QNMU Secretary