Calls for More Staff Amid Concerns Over COVID-19 Health System Preparedness

7 December 2021

 The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmanian Branch (ANMF) today welcomed the wide-scale preparation for the re-opening of the State’s borders on 15 December 2021 – with increases in beds, ventilators, and PPE. 

However, ANMF Tasmanian Branch Secretary Emily Shepherd said that health staffing numbers remain too low to deal with COVID-19 when it arrives. 

“The State has a COVID-19 plan based on extra beds, ventilators, PPE and other resources and services – all of which require nursing and midwifery staff,” Ms Shepherd said. 

“The layers of preparedness all rest upon a foundation of appropriate staffing, otherwise they will fall over.” 

Ms Shepherd said the State Government says it has been using the knowledge and experience gained from planning for, and responding to, COVID-19 since January 2020 to ensure the health system is well-prepared, which includes ensuring staff are supported and informed, but members are telling a very different story. 

“Our members already report high levels of overtime and double shifts and hold grave concerns as to how they will cope with an increase in activity from COVID-19. 

“While some staff will be diverted from vaccination and testing clinics, they will be required to run new services like COVID@home and also the increase in clinical activity across the health system. 

“Modelling has been done on the expected caseloads, amount of PPE required, beds, and ventilators, so why has there not been modelling on the staffing requirements? 

“Yes, there may have been an increase in full time equivalents (FTE) across the health system, but as required, due to increased services like vaccination and testing hubs, new beds and additional wards have been announced. 

“However, this has not addressed the underlying chronic understaffing which will place our members at risk and will severely impact their health and wellbeing when borders open in just a matter of days. 

“If indeed this is not the case, then the data on workforce and vacancies should be released to prove otherwise, to give our members and the community confidence in the health workforce capacity.” 

Ms Shepherd said Tasmania needs healthy nurses, midwives, and care workers now more than ever before. 

“Nurses, midwives, and care workers are at the frontline in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and as we have seen across the country, while some restrictions ease and life returns to some semblance of normal, for our members it will be anything but and they will continue to fight this pandemic head on. 

“The Tasmanian Government must consider the health, wellbeing, and resourcing of our health workforce as important as the equipment and beds that they have been stockpiling. 

“As always, our highly skilled and professional members will confront this challenge head on with the unwavering dedication and resolve in supporting their patients, families and their communities back to good health,” Ms Shepherd said. 

Media contact:
Emily Shepherd, ANMF Tasmanian Branch Secretary
Mobile: 0400 884 021