12 January 2022
Health Minister Stephen Wade probably wasn’t expecting to be taken to task so strongly when speaking with ABC Radio this morning.
Mr Wade was on air spruiking the State Government’s response to the spiralling COVID crisis when the ABC cut to ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM who had called in, her anger clearly audible.
“Look, the system is absolutely struggling. And it was struggling before the borders were open but we continue to ask those questions about what were their strategies,’’ Ms Dabars said.
“How were they organised? Was it going to be OK? And we were constantly told that it would be OK and not to worry our pretty little heads.
“Now the reality is that their modelling was done on Delta. The reality is the Omicron arose. The chief health officer asked the Government twice to close the borders. That was rejected by our Premier and this Government, they didn't listen, and the chickens have come home to roost.
“We are hearing already on the floor that people can't get a break to drink a bit of water before they put their PPE back on. We are really concerned that if this system is under this significant pressure right now, we're going to have the nursing and midwifery staff in the hospital beds.
“There won't be room for the patients because it'll be the nurses who can't manage, because they can't even get a drink, they cannot get a break already, and we're only a couple of weeks in (since the borders opened). We are absolutely appalled by the situation.
“There's not PPE. People are being asked to wash and reuse their face shields already. So, what’s the Minister say in terms of the resourcing and support of the nurses and midwives who are trying their best to provide support to the community?’’
Later Ms Dabars told ABC-TV news of the “huge pressure on the frontline’’.
“Everyday people are working short-staffed. That’s in aged care, that’s in metropolitan South Australia but it’s also in country SA,’’ Ms Dabars said. “So, every area you look at, whether it’s midwifery, whether it’s mental health, whether it’s the acute care sector, whether it’s aged care, they are all working short-staffed and they are all working too hard.
“We are very concerned the very people who are trying to care for our community are themselves going to become unwell in very short order. And if you cannot even have a 10-to-15 minute break on a regular basis just to rehydrate and get back on track, what hope do we have in a couple of weeks’ time?
“So we have been urging all of the Local Health Networks as a matter of urgency to implement regularised breaks, we’re saying as an absolute minimum people should be having a break every two hours to take that PPE off.
“Those masks are different to the ones that the community wear as a general rule, they are fit-tested so they sit closer to the face. We are hearing from our colleagues interstate and overseas that if you do not have adequate breaks that you can actually have your skin break down and you cannot wear a mask after that.
“So it is a really critical issue about people being able to rehydrate and have some water but also about their ability to wear those masks in the future,’’ Ms Dabars said.
“We are absolutely at pains to say if they do not look after those staff there will be no one to look after the community because it will be they themselves who need a bed.’’