An Australian nurse is warning about a potential national health crisis as understaffed and overworked healthcare workers are struggling to cope with the country’s surge in Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) patients.
Australia has become infamous in recent weeks because of its extreme coronavirus lockdown restrictions. The statements from nurses, doctors and other health practitioners in the country prove that none of the restrictions have worked to curb COVID-19 cases. (Related: Australian state launches new check-in system to track quarantined residents, those who fail to respond get a visit from cops.)
Lucy Murnane, a nurse working in Melbourne in the southeastern state of Victoria, spoke to the Australian television program Today on Monday about how hospitals are dealing with COVID-19 in the state. In her hospital, she said the nurses “are spent.” She had just finished a 10-hour night shift when she spoke with the breakfast television program.
“We are struggling, to put it frankly,” she said. “We’ve been struggling for a long time now. The start of the year saw the highest volume of presentations that we’ve ever had, and that was in a time where we weren’t seeing really any COVID [cases].”
“We’re very stressed. But we’re just trying our best to look after each other,” she added.
Murnane explained that the situation has been made worse in the state because many nurses have either left the healthcare industry entirely or resigned to assist the state’s mass vaccination drive, which is offering higher pay than hospitals.
Other nurses have also resigned to seek employment in quarantine hotels and COVID-19 testing clinics.
“We’re already at capacity,” said Murnane. “We simply just don’t have any beds and we don’t have any nurses for those beds at the moment.”
“We’re feeling it already, and it’s only going to get worse from here.”
To compensate for the lack of nurses, Murnane explained that her hospital is preparing to use a “team nursing model.” This will involve calling up physical therapists, social workers and even using students to join Murnane and the other trained nurses.
“Because we simply don’t have enough nurses to probably cover the huge surge that’s coming.”
The current situation in Victoria is terrible, and experts modeling the state of the pandemic believe the situation will only get worse. Daily infections are expected to peak at the end of October, and then skyrocket again sometime in December.
Murnane leading petition demanding better pay for nurses
Murnane has petitioned Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews of the left-wing Labor Party to introduce a specialized COVID-19 disaster payment for nurses, believing this will help draw people back into hospitals.
“We need some kind of incentives, otherwise we won’t get nurses back to the hospitals to help us with what’s coming,” she said.
“We’re just, unfortunately, not going to get nurses back to hospitals based on the love of it anymore,” added Murnane. “No nurse ever got into the healthcare system because of money. We all knew that – nursing isn’t a well-paid job. But the love of it is just not there anymore because we are just exhausted. Victorian nurses are just spent.”
In a previous interview, Murnane explained that she felt very frustrated because “we’re constantly told that we’re heroes and we’re told that we’re the backbone of the community, but we don’t get treated like we’re heroes. It feels like we’re the forgotten ones.”
Murnane has also rejected the possibility of a one-off special payment. She has instead called for the pay of nurses to correspond with the amount of work they are expected to do.
“Our wages do not equate to the work that we do,” she said. “We are, I guess, as everyone has described, the backbones of hospitals, and we just do not get the pay that equates to what we do.”
Murnane’s petition received more than 4,000 signatures in less than a day. As of press time, it has nearly 50,000 signatures.
Learn more about the state of the coronavirus pandemic in Australia by reading the latest articles at Pandemic.news.