Federal Government needs to be clear on strategies to prevent spread of COVID-19

16 March 2020

The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), representing over 280,000 members, says the Federal Government must send clear and consistent messages to the community in order to contain the rapid spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and ease growing anxiety, confusion and concern about this public health emergency.

ANMF members (nurses, midwives and carers) are working around the clock caring for their patients and protecting the community. Nurses working in primary care are reporting countless patients have numerous questions and concerns and virtually no knowledge about COVID-19 or how to protect themselves. Nurses are providing significant education and also advising the public to ensure they update their knowledge using the best resources. Widespread community education should have occurred weeks ago.

The ANMF says this lack of knowledge and understanding is contributing to anxiety and panic and also resulting in some people not taking COVID-19 and its implications seriously.

Following Friday’s Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Sydney, the ANMF calls on the Federal Government to:

  • Guarantee the national stockpile and supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing kits will be accessed on an as needs basis by all sectors during this pandemic– public, private, primary health care and aged care. This is a matter of urgency as ANMF members are concerned PPE is in short supply as COVID-19 continues to spread.
  • Advise where and when Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is being sourced and when it will be distributed to frontline nurses and healthcare workers across the country.
  • Ensure that its overdue national advertising education campaign on COVID-19 is presented in clear and accessible language and is assertively communicated to all communities including First Nations people and CALD communities.
  • Agree to provide a ‘special leave’ payment for those casual workers in public and private sectors directly affected by COVID-19 or required to self-isolate. A payment based on the Newstart allowance is grossly inadequate and well below the poverty line.
  • Provide a comprehensive strategy on how it will respond and care for some of the most vulnerable in our community, those individuals who are experiencing homelessness, social isolation, theelderly and those living in poverty.
  • Ensure there is genuine transparency and accountability for the $101.2 million additional funding for nursing homes and that money is used to employ urgently-needed registered nurses and carers and deliver immediate infection control training to personal care staff.
  • Immediately stop all non-essential visits to nursing homes to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Quotes attributable to ANMF Acting Federal Secretary, Lori-Anne Sharp:

“Nursing home residents are at a greater risk of mortality and providers must be prepared with sufficient supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE) and have registered nurses on every shift and appropriately skilled and trained staff, to properly care for residents.”

“Nurses, midwives and carers are the major workforce which will be relied upon to care for Coronavirus patients. Why is it that the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, who represent over 280,000 members across the country, do not have a seat at the recently formed Australian Health Protection Principal Committee?”

“Health of our community is the number one priority as we must focus to slow the spread of the virus which will put less stress on our health system. Many in the public are concerned, confused and searching for answers, as access to important and basic information has not been distributed widely.”

“There has also been mixed messages concerning the cancellation of major sporting events and other mass gatherings; the potential closure of schools; risks associated with attending gyms and using public transport. Any wonder many in the public are confused.”

ANMF media release authorised by Lori-Anne Sharp, ANMF Assistant Federal Secretary. 1/365 Queen St, Melbourne.

The ANMF, with over 280,000 members, is the industrial and professional voice for nurses, midwives and assistants in nursing in Australia.

ANMF media inquiries: Richard Lenarduzzi 0411 254 390

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