The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) Tasmanian Branch have raised significant safety concerns for staff and patients with the Launceston General Hospital’s (LGH) Chief Executive. This follows several days over the Christmas period where nurses worked in temperatures of up to 40 degrees while wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE).
The ANMF were contacted by nurses over this period raising concerns not only for themselves and their colleagues, but also for their patients who were sweltering in a hot and humid environment.
‘The ANMF have raised these unsafe working conditions for years, and whilst the Tasmania Government allocated 1.4 million dollars in 2018 for air conditioning upgrades, it appears the LGH D block have not received these upgrades’, said ANMF Tasmanian Branch Secretary, Emily Shepherd.
The ANMF wrote to the Chief Executive of Hospitals North over the Christmas break, and again yesterday, to seek an overview of how these safety issues will be addressed prior to further warm weather during summer.
‘It is unacceptable that nurses have had to work in temperatures of up to 40 degrees in plastic aprons, masks, gloves and eye shields without the ability to turn on a fan or even open a window, not to mention how uncomfortable it is for extremely unwell patients.
‘Members reported that patients were suffering from the heat and that nurses had to leave shifts early due to suffering from heat exhaustion and feeling faint. This is not a safe working environment. With the ongoing need for PPE due to COVID-19, and warmer weather imminent, immediate solutions need to be put in place.’
LGH staff are not the only ANMF members affected with extreme temperatures, with the Launceston testing clinic sites experiencing high temperatures during the heat wave. ANMF members at this workplace also wear PPE and are operating with skeleton staffing, meaning that hydration breaks are difficult to take, and in some instances are not possible at all.
‘The Tasmanian Government must do better in supporting the health and wellbeing of nurses and midwives. The heat concerns were raised by members in the North whilst the code yellow was ongoing at the RHH last week, and members returned to work during their annual leave. Nurses and midwives need at a minimum safe working environments, safe staffing, and the opportunity to take their leave without fear of being called back to work.’
The ANMF will continue to advocate for members across the state on these important safety issues.
This year’s theme for International Midwives Day, ‘Follow the data, invest in midwives’ coincides with the International Confederation of Midwives launch of the Global Midwives’ Hub. This is an online resource aimed at providing shared knowledge, tools, and improved data literacy to support midwives in advocating for their profession.
Investment in health and midwifery services in Tasmania remains a priority in 2021, particularly in response to the 1 May State election results. “At a time when vacancy rates in Tasmania are high, the newly elected Government must immediately develop a workforce strategy to support increasing numbers of Tasmanian midwives. We must look at models of care, allow midwives to work to their full potential, and empower the midwifery profession just as they do the women that they support in their practice,” said Ms Shepherd.
The ANMF will be holding activities with midwifery members across the State today to recognise and celebrate their achievements.
Emily Shepherd, ANMF Tasmanian Branch Secretary
Mobile: 0400 884 021