Extra funding to support Victorian nurses, midwives and carers during COVID-19

The Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria (NMHPV), a support service for Victorian nurses, midwives and carers experiencing health issues related to mental health or substance use, has received an additional $250,000 in funding to provide greater help and counselling during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The Andrews Government announced the funding boost yesterday as part of a broader $59.7 million package to build the capacity of the state’s clinical and community mental health services to support Victorians struggling with the effects of the pandemic.

The funding for the NMHPV adds to $350,000 provided by the government back in June to enable the service to cope with an expected increase in demand as the coronavirus crisis unfolds.

The NMHPV, a free, independent and confidential nurse-led service for nurses, midwives, carers, and students dealing with issues such as anxiety, depression or drug use, allocated those funds toward expanding its telehealth footprint so it could continue to provide screening, assessment, referrals and access to individual and group support sessions amid increasing demand during COVID-19.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick encouraged nurses, midwives, students and carers to access the service if they need support.

“Use this service if you are worried about COVID-19, worried about taking it home to your family, worried about your patients and residents, if you are in self-isolation or you have tested positive,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

“Use it if your workplace is one of the aged care facilities that has had an outbreak, or if you were one of the nurses first on the scene to assist at an outbreak facility.

“These have been extraordinary situations and there’s nothing wrong with asking for support at work.”

“Nurses, midwives and carers don’t have to carry this all on their own, and please don’t wait until you feel totally overwhelmed.”

Ms Fitzpatrick stressed that mental health support was not a replacement for the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and proper infection controls and processes, with the ANMF continuing to work with the Victorian Government, the Department of Health and Human Services, health facility representatives and members to resolve any issues identified.

According to the branch, from its more than 91,000 members, there were 37 issues raised over the past week, with the vast majority relating to education around the safe use of PPE.

Established in 2006, the NMHPV was originally funded through nurses’ and midwives’ registration fees.

Funding became challenging following the transition from state to national registration in 2010, with the NMBA declining to fund the NMHPV, but after its 2004 election, the Andrews Government committed to ongoing funding for the vital support service.

Mr Andrews said the government’s latest funding would help strengthen the state’s mental health system to tackle the challenges of the pandemic and support Victorians who need help to cope.

“We know Victorians are resilient but we have never faced a crisis quite like this one and I know there are a lot of people out there doing it tough right now. We want them to know they are not alone,” he said.

Victorian nurses, midwives, carers and students can access the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program Victoria (NMHPV) by calling (03) 9415 7551 or visiting www.nmhp.org.au for more information.

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