A submission to the independent inquiry into the North-West COVID-19 outbreak has painted a damning picture of an unprepared health system, Labor says.
In its submission, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmania branch said a number of broad concerns were shared by nurses, midwives and care workers in the North-West during the outbreak earlier this year.
These included concerns around insufficient personal protective equipment, insufficient training on PPE use and infection control procedures, poor communication, inadequate staffing levels, and lack of support for workers in isolation.
In the absence of advice from senior management at the local level, ANMF members contacted the Public Health Hotline seeking advice in relation to infection control procedures, testing, use of PPE and isolating of patients.
The submission also highlighted concerns held by health care workers following the closure of the North West Regional Hospital and the North West Private Hospital which saw the transfer of both COVID-positive and COVID-free patients to the Mersey Community Hospital.
These concerns related to PPE being locked in an office with no access, no negative pressure rooms being available, and no on-site senior staff or management to provide advice during the Easter long weekend.
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Labor health spokeswoman Sarah Lovell said while the issues reported by the ANMF were concerning they were not revelations.
“Nurses and other health workers, along with their unions and Labor raised these issues publicly at the time they were occurring months ago,” Ms Lovell said.
“This frank input from the nurses will hopefully provide the inquiry with the opportunity to really interrogate what happened, why it happened, what’s been done since and what still needs to be done so Tasmanians can have confidence that our system is as prepared as it can be for any future outbreaks of infectious diseases.”
Greens health spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff said the ANMF’s submission confirmed earlier concerns about lack of access to PPE by health care workers.
“As well as addressing issues about PPE, the government needs to look at how it can better structure and staff the health system going forward,” Dr Woodruff said.
“The evidence shows there were system failures in the North-West earlier this year. We should now learn our lessons and take steps to make sure an outbreak like this, or worse, can’t happen again.”