7 October 2022
More healthcare workers are likely to want to leave hospitals as mandatory isolation rules are scrapped, a hospital chaplain says.
The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association said in February that more than a quarter of all primary health care nurses were planning to leave their job amid COVID pressures.
Anglican chaplain Reverend Dawn Treloar says she believes that staff are likely to start looking for roles where they do not have to deal with life and death matters related to COVID.
Ms Treloar said that the dropping of rules around mask wearing, social distancing, and now isolation times while people were still COVID positive, did not bode well for the hospital system.
She said that although chaplains had always provided care for patients, staff and families, most pastoral care workers had had to adjust their ministry as waves of COVID patients had arrived at hospitals over the last two years.
For many hospital chaplains, a larger proportion than usual of their work had come to be about caring for staff, Ms Treloar said.
She said with contact restrictions, the redistribution of work to care for people with the virus, and other risks, stressed staff had worked long hours at the epicentre of the virus.
She said the scrapping of the rules would mean that staff would return to the heightened state of anxiety that had been triggered by the initial COVID waves, and cover shifts for colleagues who were unwell.
“I understand the social, financial, social and political incentives for the lifting of COVID restrictions but I’m fearful of the next variant. Hospital staff are still suffering the physical and psychological effects of the last two years of recurrent waves of COVID,” Ms Treloar said.
“They are tired, many are struggling with long COVID. Some have had three bouts of COVID, and many are much less resilient than pre-2020. Just the effort of getting to work is a struggle for many.”
Former Grattan Institute health director, Dr Stephen Duckett said he expected that the deficit for procedures such as elective surgery would grow, particularly because of long COVID.
However, as health workers continued their efforts amid the pandemic, they were getting the virus themselves, he said.
Dr Duckett wrote about the need for compassion, social justice and stewardship in care settings in The Melbourne Anglican in March.
He said he was disappointed but not surprised that the restrictions had been dropped.
Throughout 2021 the previous government under Scott Morrison had increasingly deemphasised COVID and it had become harder and harder for governments to convince the community that COVID was an issue, he said.
But the only way to prevent long COVID was to prevent COVID, he said.
“We need to continue to use ‘light touch’ public health measures, including making sure places are well ventilated mask wearing in congregations are prudent,” Dr Duckett said.
“However government’s should be showing the lead on this. So-called personal responsibility is not a serious strategy.”