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A shaky SA Government response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been revealed by a survey of a broad cross-section of South Australian public sector health, aged care and disability support workers.

In findings of a survey conducted earlier this year, hundreds of public sector workers raised serious concerns about the COVID-19 response including:

  • Cuts to hours in aged care facilities at the height of COVID-19 leaving social and emotional needs of aged care residents unmet.
  • More than half of workers reporting workload increases – with short staffing seen as the major contributor.
  • Respondents repeatedly cited confusion, lack of direction and a lack of communication as a hallmark of the state’s COVID-19 response.

“The fact hours were cut in aged care facilities means at the very least care standards were threatened in the COVID-19 response,” SA public sector co-ordinator Paul Blackmore said today.

“This survey shows the health and disability systems didn’t consider the extra staff, resources or planning needed to carry out all the extra safety and hygiene measures required during the pandemic.

“The shaky response of the SA public health and disability systems exposed by workers should be a matter of grave concern for every South Australian citizen.”

The survey also gives an insight into the many challenges faced by public sector workers who worked through the pandemic:

  • More than half of workers reported COVID-19 related health and safety concerns.
  • Only one third of workers said they have felt more valued for the essential work they have performed during the crisis.

United Workers Union members said most of the concerns in hospitals and aged care facilities stemmed from limited access to PPE and the lack of consultation about COVID-related safety measures.

Most respondents said they had been required to commit additional time to carry out more intensive cleaning, implement extra hygiene measures, complete extra paperwork and deal with the extra PPE items.

“The Government should recognise fundamental issues that would make these workplaces safer,” Mr Blackmore said. “It should stop cuts that create understaffing and ensure secure jobs for essential workers.

“COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on understaffing levels that even before the pandemic were denying the most vulnerable community members the health and care standards they deserve.

“We have seen COVID-19 thrives on insecure work. Measures to address understaffing and improve job security would make workers, and the community, safer in the SA public health system.”