Matters of State: changes to COVID-19 restrictions, call to support our nurses

SUPPORT: Phil Donato (right), with his colleague Roy Butler MP (left), supporting nurses and midwives at the protest rally outside NSW Parliament. Photo: SUPPLIED.
SUPPORT: Phil Donato (right), with his colleague Roy Butler MP (left), supporting nurses and midwives at the protest rally outside NSW Parliament. Photo: SUPPLIED.

QR check-in

For a while now QR Check-ins have been a fruitless endeavour.

It was a useful tool at the height of the COVID-19 Delta outbreak for contact tracing purposes, but since then contact tracing has been scaled back as it couldn't keep up with the pace of Omicron spread throughout the community.

Epidemiologists and infectious disease experts have been saying that QR check-ins are no longer as effective nor as useful in stemming the spread.

For weeks the Premier has been quizzed as to why mandatory QR check-ins were still in place, but he dodged answering.

Last week in Parliament I called on the Government to abolish mandatory QR check-in for the aforementioned reasons.

The Government must have taken notice, because a day later they announced from Friday 18th February 2022 that QR check-ins were no longer a requirement, except for nightclubs, music festivals of 1,000 people or more.

Other COVID-19 restrictions which lifted last Friday, include:

  • No density limits
  • Singing and dancing will be permitted at all venues, except music festivals, where singing and dancing can recommence from 25th February.
  • The recommendation to work from home will change and be returned to the employer's discretion.

Further COVID-19 restrictions being lifted this coming Friday, February 25, 2022, include:

  • Masks will only be mandated on public transport, planes, and indoors at airports, hospitals, aged and disability care facilities, corrections facilities and indoor music festivals with more than 1,000 people.
  • Each Government agency will review and implement its own mask-wearing requirements for staff-public interactions.
  • The 20,000 person cap on music festivals will be removed, with singing and dancing permitted.
  • Vaccination requirements will remain for indoor music festivals over 1,000 people, with attendees required to have at least two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

No care for nurses

The Regional Health Inquiry heard evidence from a long list of witnesses about the decline in health services, so the Government cannot deny there's a problem with health care delivery here in the regions.

One of the issues is that there just aren't enough nurses.

Last Tuesday, thousands of nurses and midwives across New South Wales resorted to strike action, which is an extraordinary measure which is rarely undertaken by them.

Nurses are a pretty resilient bunch, they have to be to do the work they do. So when they say enough is enough, then we all should take notice - most importantly, the Government.

The NSW Government have plenty of warning on this, in fact I tabled a petition in parliament back in 2020 which called on the Government to introduce mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios, such as Queensland Health have adopted.

Sadly, the Health Minister's response to that petition indicated he was happy with the status quo.

In spite of the Nationals' 2019 pre-election promise of delivering more country nurses, it certainly isn't being seen in our hospitals and multi-purpose services.

Nurses are routinely, and, increasingly, overworked as a result of staff shortages.

The Government were all too happy to pose for a pic with nurses for political opportunity when COVID erupted, but they've failed to tangibly support, compensate or reward our nurses, who've been working in very trying conditions.

There are health care facilities in the Orange electorate which have continued operating only because of the good will of nurses, who've filled long-term vacant positions in the roster by doing overtime.

This doesn't surprise me, nurses do what they do because they care about their community. Unfortunately, their good will has been taken for granted and certainly hasn't motivated NSW Health to solve the problem.

Nurses deserve greater support, and the community deserve better health care delivery and outcomes. The introduction of mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios would greatly benefit us all.

As a side note, last year I happened to have a frank discussion with a Visiting Medical Officer doing locum work at a regional NSW hospital.

That doctor was from interstate where nurse-to-patient ratios were mandated and working very effectively in managing nurse workload and patient care.

He said that after working here that he wouldn't be coming back to work in NSW because of the extremely high workload which also translated to diminished patient care. I think that speaks volumes.

The Government have not yet responded to nurses' reasonable requests, verifying what we've suspected - the Liberal National Government really don't care about nurses being understaffed, overworked and getting burnt out. For the Government, nurses were only good for pic as a political opportunity.

To add insult to injury, every Nationals and Liberals MP in the Legislative Assembly voted to remove presumptive workers compensation rights for nurses and other workers who contract COVID-19.