Australia’s peak workplace health and safety body is calling for immediate government action to stop the spread of COVID-19 among healthcare workers.
An examination of current health and safety standards in healthcare by the Australian Institute of Health & Safety has found they are inadequate for the current crisis.
This comes as over 1200 Victorian healthcare workers have now tested positive to coronavirus.
AIHS chairwoman Naomi Kemp said the failure to provide adequate workplace health and safety standards in hospitals and aged care centres has contributed to the state’s devastating second wave.
“The current infection rate is unacceptable,” she said.
“But more tragically, it is preventable.”
Ms Kemp said that current health and safety practice rebuked the assumption that hospitals were some of Australia’s safest workplaces.
“Workers on many building sites currently have better protection than our healthcare workers when it comes to personal protective equipment, protocols around common work and recreation areas and transmission management,” she said.
“Despite months of preparation, hospitals and aged care centres don’t have the health and safety practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 amongst their frontline workers.”
“The rate of infection of frontline workers is putting additional pressure on the sector to be able to deliver services.”
Australia’s National Guidance on personal protective equipment use in hospitals does not require staff to wear P2/N95’s masks in all activities with confirmed or potential COVID-19 patients, even though it is an airborne virus. Surgical masks are not designed to protect the wearer.
Ms Kemp said that urgently needed to change.
“We’re not saying that individual hospitals and aged care centres aren’t trying, but many are only implementing the minimum health and safety standards, and those requirements are dangerously inadequate for frontline workers,” she said.
The AIHS is calling on the federal and state governments to implement the following:
Ms Kemp said unless these five areas were addressed as a matter of urgency, infection rates in hospitals and aged care centres would continue to escalate.
“The Victorian experience will simply be repeated in other states unless we act urgently to introduce better protocols across Australia,” she said. “No worker should have to go to work and contract COVID-19.”
About the AIHS: with a more than 70-year history, the Australian Institute of Health & Safety is Australia’s national association for the health and safety profession, with a vision for safe and healthy people in productive workplaces and communities.