Nine out of 10 (89 per cent) essential health and disability workers have marked the Premier, Steven Marshall, a “fail” in his preparedness to provide safe workplaces after the border reopened, according to a new survey of almost 500 essential workers.
And two thirds (66 per cent) of the workers say they would be prepared to stop unsafe work practices after delivering their damning verdict on the Marshall government’s preparedness for the Omicron wave.
The survey of 487 hospital orderlies, catering and cleaning staff, sterilisation technicians, patient support assistants and disability support workers found widespread anger about PPE shortages, a lack of appropriate PPE, lack of RAT tests and confusing messages about dealing with Omicron.
The United Workers Union survey shows a lack of COVID safety going to the heart of hospitals, aged care facilities and disability support homes, highlighting issues including:
- Catering workers visiting suspected COVID-positive patients at the Lyell McEwin hospital but not being provided with any surveillance RAT tests – with 16 workers contracting COVID since November.
- Staff shortages and increased workload at the Royal Adelaide Hospital leading to reduced cleaning standards and the introduction of “quick cleans” for COVID areas.
- Lack of communication, consultation, and training on how to conduct COVID cleans at Flinders Medical Centre.
- Workers contracted to private companies at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Flinders Medical Centre, Lyell McEwin and Modbury Hospitals without access to any COVID leave.
- Widespread shortages of PPE, or poorly-fitted PPE, across hospitals, aged care and disability support homes.
UWU Public Sector Director Demi Pnevmatikos said it was completely unacceptable that three months into the Omicron wave workers were still unable to properly protect themselves, their families, and the people they care for against COVID-19.
“Premier Steven Marshall has failed the test of preparedness to ensure safe workplaces when the border opened back in November,” Ms Pnevmatikos said.
“We have a health system in crisis and a government not willing to act or listen to the essential workers on the frontline.”
United Workers Union has outlined 19 COVID-safety concerns in a letter to Mr Marshall, but he has refused to meet with the union about the issues raised.
“I urge Premier Marshall to heed our requests because this pandemic is far from over – we are having about 2000 reported COVID cases a day, continuing hospitalisations and who knows what is around the corner,” Ms Pnevmatikos said.
Responses from workers to the survey included:
“Zero consultation, management were clearly in the dark themselves, no clear answers about COVID leave with pay, confusion about whether it would be paid or not. Staff shortages, inadequate PPE training, inadequate PPE disposal bins, PPE disposal training, inadequate communication, felt generally unsupported. I personally caught COVID.”
“Total lack of initial assessment for the omicron virus, severe shortage of PPE across the DHS accommodation houses.”
“If we would have contracted the virus at work we did not have any guarantee that we would be covered by WorkCover or sick leave.”
“Lack of RAT testing for staff. Being told it is only for nurses as front-line workers not ancillary. No support, no staff. Working ridiculous shifts and days in a row to backfill shortages.”