The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to outline its significant concerns regarding the government’s national plan to re-open Australia and transition the country’s pandemic response based on the Doherty Institute’s COVID-19 modelling and the Commonwealth Department of Treasury’s economic analysis.
In the letter, the union requests that more detailed modelling and analysis be undertaken and considered by National Cabinet before it takes any further steps to re-open the country.
“As you are aware, the nursing and midwifery workforces, as the largest and best distributed components of the health workforce, are fundamental to ensuring that the Australian community remains safe and healthy both during COVID outbreaks and as we seek to gradually move the nation beyond the current ‘suppression phase’ of the COVID-19 response,” ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler wrote.
“This means that the impacts of re-opening and transitioning the country’s national COVID-19 response prematurely without adequate planning or sufficient resourcing will disproportionately affect nurses and midwives and their capacity for ongoing delivery of quality care.”
Ms Butler argued the Doherty modelling, which currently underpins the government’s proposed re-opening plan, fails to take into account all the factors affecting this capacity.
Specifically, the ANMF has called on the government to consider the following factors before re-opening:
- Current health system demand capacity, including expansion capacity, both critical care and general, and management of non COVID health demand
- Assessment of safe vaccination targets, which include the entire population, not just those currently eligible
- Vaccination rates needed for vulnerable populations, including those aged over 70 and other high-risk groups
- Management of anticipated vaccination rollout channels for boosters, once recommended
- The impact of the Delta and future variants, including on children, particularly in the context of uncontrolled community transmission, as is currently occurring in NSW
- How the test-trace-isolate-quarantine TTIQ workforce will be fully resourced and maintained without impacting the nursing and midwifery workforces
- How to ensure all communities across Australia will have equal access to safe healthcare as we progress through the pandemic
Like all Australians, Ms Butler said the ANMF was keen to transition the country’s COVID-19 response from one of strict virus suppression to more relaxed restrictions. However, it cannot happen without first addressing critical concerns, she warned.
“We cannot overstate the importance of ensuring that we do not make this transition until we can guarantee that vaccination rates and appropriate public health measures are sufficient to allow the health and aged care systems and their workforces to be able to continue to deliver best practice care to all those requiring it.”