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WHO: United Workers Union health workers walk off the job at Lyell McEwin Hospital, Adelaide.

WHAT: More than 50 essential health workers and their fellow union members will protest outside the hospital in their fight against privatisations and job cuts. The protest also highlights serious concerns raised by workers about safety standards in the stretched hospital system.

WHEN: 1.30pm for 1.45pm near the old entrance to Lyell McEwin Hospital on Haydown Road, across from the Elizabeth Vale shops.

VISUALS: Essential health workers in hospital uniforms holding posters, placards and chanting outside the hospital. Workers and union representatives will be available for interview.


Essential health workers have raised concerns about lapses in cleaning and infection control procedures at hospitals across the state that have the potential to gravely endanger patients, residents and essential health workers.

Work bans have been imposed to address workers’ reports of situations where patients and aged care residents are facing unnecessary infection risks across SA Health’s public hospital system, with gaps in safety protocols, corners being cut and understaffing occurring on a daily basis.

Concerns have been raised as frustrated workers at one of Adelaide’s largest hospitals, Lyell McEwin, walk off the job today as they continue their fight against privatisations and job cuts that further threaten the health system.

As the state’s borders open on November 23, issues exposed by workers across the state reveal flawed infection control procedures that appear to leave workers, those they care for and the community at risk.

“We are releasing today a run sheet of work bans imposed by health care workers in response to lapses in cleaning and infection control across SA Health. The list is simply horrifying,” Paul Blackmore, United Workers Union’s Public Sector Co-ordinator said.

“The community expects hospitals and aged care facilities should be places where safety is not compromised.

“The fact the state is about to open up yet Mount Gambier hospital workers have reported serious concerns about infection control procedures should be a matter of concern to all SA residents.”

Examples of incidents where there have been lapses in infection control procedures include:

  • Poor infection notification procedures in Emergency Department cubicles at Mount Gambier Hospital, meaning workers had been entering areas where suspected COVID cases are being tested without knowing the potential infection risk.
  • No documentation or notification to workers about infectious risk outside rooms at Millicent Hospital, leaving food service workers entering rooms without PPE when patients with airborne infections have been present.
  • Sterilising department workers being told to reuse single-use face shields by management.
  • Cleaners being directed not to clean patient rooms to their daily cleaning standard at Flinders Medical Centre due to short-staffing.
  • Workers at Barmera Hospital and Aged Care potentially exposed to residue of highly toxic drugs used in chemotherapy over a two-year period due to inadequate precautions .
  • Cleaners entering Emergency Department cubicles at Wallaroo after suspected COVID cases without cleaners being advised of the need for PPE and that infectious cleans are required.

Last week, essential health workers implemented work bans in more than 45 hospitals and aged care facilities in their fight for secure jobs for essential workers.

The essential workers include hospital cleaners, patient service assistants, disability support workers, catering workers, sterilisation technicians, aged carers and community care workers.

“These work bans have been imposed because workers are sick and tired of corners being cut, understaffing and gaps in safety protocols that threaten the safety of patients, residents and workers,” Mr Blackmore said.

“The work ban has only been imposed if it is based on a first-hand account of a worker reporting the issue to the United Workers Union.

“United Workers Union members are sick of papering over the cracks of the health system, and will simply refuse to carry out unsafe tasks they have been asked to perform.

“United Workers Union members are no longer going to put up with the neglect they have faced, as they serve the community and push for the Marshall Liberal Government to give them the job security they deserve.

“Workers have been on the front line during the Covid-19 crisis, and yet they continue to be put into unnecessarily risky situations.”


“Related work ban” outlines the text of the work ban imposed at each of the sites.


Issue: Workers had been unknowingly entering the room of a resident for up to two years who had been undergoing chemotherapy treatment which requires specific precautions and PPE as it was not clearly displayed as required.

Risks: Workers had potentially been exposed to residue of highly toxic drugs used in chemotherapy over a two-year period.

Related work ban: Refuse to complete patient room cleans, including cytotoxic cleans, if not provided with appropriate PPE and report to UWU at [email protected] or via SMS to 0427 082 597.


Issue: Workers in the sterilising department where surgical and other medical equipment is cleaned and sterilised after surgical procedures are being told by their management to re-use single use face shields

Risks: These face shields protect workers from being exposed to matter that could have been sprayed or spattered during the cleaning or sterilising process.

Related work ban:

Will not reuse single use face shields after they have been removed, and will refuse despite a managers unsafe direction to do so

If management continues to direct members to re-use/continue to use PPE, or implements any other unsafe practice, report to UWU at [email protected] or SMS to 0417 089 815 so it can be escalated through SA Health channels


Issue: Repeated failures to issue precaution signs outside patients’ rooms meaning catering workers are not notified of infectious patients. Failures to notify of other serious issues within rooms.

Risk: Catering workers unknowingly entering infectious rooms when they should be giving the task to staff wearing appropriate PPE; catering workers not notified of issues in the room.

Related work ban: Only enter a patient’s room once notified of the appropriate PPE requirements or other requirements or other precautions, including the presence of a deceased body, either through nursing staff or appropriate signage on the door.


Issue: Workers being directed to reduce cleaning of patient rooms due to understaffing.

Risks: Required standards of daily cleans not being met.

Related work ban: Display a poster on the door of patient rooms in the RAP (Rehabilitation, Aged and Palliative Care Services) area which have not had a daily clean to the required standard as directed by management due to staff shortages.


Issue: Repeated failures to issue precaution signs outside patients’ rooms or being advised by nursing staff meaning catering workers are not notified of infectious patients.

Risks: Catering workers regularly entering rooms without knowledge of infectious risks and precautions required.

Related work ban: A patient’s room will only be entered once members have been notified of the appropriate PPE requirements or other precautions through an updated precaution on the door or via nursing staff


Issue: No documentation or precaution on patient Emergency Department cubicles regarding infectious risk.

Risks: No notifications about a suspected Covid-19 patient, with cleaners and catering workers entering the cubicle not knowing of the potential contamination risk. Risks of cross-contamination with other patients if insufficient PPE is worn.

Related work ban: An infectious room or cubicle will only be entered where appropriate information regarding what type of PPE or clean is required is clearly displayed or after being informed by nursing staff.


Issue: Repeated failures to issue precaution signs outside patients’ rooms meaning catering workers are not notified of infectious patients.

Risks: Catering workers were in and out of a room with infection risks for 24 hours before being made aware PPE was necessary.

Related work ban: Meals will only be delivered once members have been notified of the appropriate precautions through Leecare, the communication book, above the patient’s bed or via nursing staff to ensure patient safety


Issue:  Emergency Department cubicles are not being cleaned after suspected COVID cases due to cleaning workers not being advised that infectious clean is required

Risks: Potential exposure to and contamination of workers and patients of infection

Related work ban: Display a sign at each bay or room wherever infection control or cleaning procedures are not being adhered to, including rooms not being cleaned after use by patients undergoing COVID testing

ENDS Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]