ACT healthcare workers could bear brunt of COVID and restrictions in wake of extended lockdown

When ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced that the Territory would extend its lockdown until 15 October in the wake of 22 new cases at a press conference today, he was asked what the plan forward was for Territorians, including healthcare workers.

Mr Barr said the reduction of restrictions relied on meeting vaccination targets.

Yet according to reporters, workers in Canberra’s health system have been, and continue to be, subject to much stricter screening processes than the rest of the community to go to work. They said this had been the case even when ACT was COVID free and national numbers were low.

“They were unable to go to work if they had been to LGAs [local government areas] where there had been a case in the previous month,” Mr Barr was told.

“Moving forward when we hit these vaccination targets will these health workers have to continue to adhere to these much more strict screening measures – perhaps not seeing the friends and family interstate for even longer as the restrictions start to ease for the rest of  ACT community, “ he was asked.

In response, Mr Barr said they were aware of the issue and were working on it.

However, he also said that healthcare workers worked in very high-risk settings.

“There will be a lot more COVID in our system. Presumingly people needing care and support as we transition out of lockdown. It doesn’t matter which vaccination threshold you pick. All the Doherty models show there will be an increase in cases, increase in hospitalisations and an increase in patients in Intensive care,” Mr Barr said.

Mr Barr said he believed the general community would not forgive a government that allowed a significantly increased risk of COVID within a hospital setting.

“But we will examine the situation in terms of COVID in local government areas and public health directions as the nation steps forward through the different vaccination phases,” he said.

The Chief Minister was asked if there was specific planning and policy for healthcare workers.

“Because these workers have been shouldering an enormous burden. Even at the beginning of the year when other people were travelling freely, such as they were going to NSW when these workers couldn’t,” the reporter said.

Mr Barr said the government was looking at workforce and planning and recruiting more staff.

“We will obviously allow people to get the rest and recuperation and all of those basic human needs.”

Mr Barr said healthcare workers had done an incredible job over the past 18 months during this pandemic. “We will be relying on [them] in the next 12-18 months as well.”

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