MEDIA RELEASE: QLD healthcare sector needs changes now to stop the spread

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of members. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institue of Health & Safety.
Date: 
Monday, 7 September, 2020 - 15:00
Category: 
Media release
Location: 
National News

Australia’s peak health and safety body are calling for the Queensland Government to make immediate changes in healthcare unless it wants to follow the path of Victoria.

As Ipswich Hospital shuts for all but emergency cases, the Australian Institute of Health and Safety is calling for the Queensland Government to take immediate action.

“A nurse working with infected patients at Ipswich Hospital has tested positive for COVID-19. This is the fourth case at the hospital in as many days. Now, 222 staff are out of action, basically bringing the hospital to a close,” said Naomi Kemp, Chair Australian Institute of Health & Safety.

“This is simply unacceptable. No worker should go to work and contract COVID-19.”

“We are calling on Workplace Health and Safety Queensland to start an investigation at Ipswich Hospital right now to understand where they went wrong and prevent it from happening in other
hospitals.”

“Every employer is legally accountable for the safety of their workers, and WHSQ need to be allowed to do their job” Ms Kemp said. “Public health emergency powers should not prevent them from enforcing the health and safety laws”.

If Queensland Health wants to stop the spread of COVID in hospitals and other health care services, it needs to make changes to its infection controls and implement better worker health and safety practices now.

The Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said on Sunday, she was not concerned about levels of protective equipment or training.

“This statement shows they have not learnt from the Victorian debacle, where 3100 healthcare workers caught COVID. Health and safety standards and practices routinely applied in many healthcare settings have been inadequate to protect workers,” Ms Kemp said.

Current infection control practices are designed for patient safety. They are not effective in preventing staff contracting coronavirus.

“The failure to use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) like fitted P2/N95 masks and poor health and safety strategies are a major contributing factor to the high infection rates of workers and patients hospitals.“

“The standards being used in hospitals to protect their workers need to be urgently updated.”

“These changes should be informed by the expertise from the health and safety sector who specialise in managing risks in the workplace, not just medical professionals,” Ms Kemp said.

The Australian Institute of Health & Safety is calling on the Queensland Government and the Chief Health Officer to put health and safety expertise and WHSQ on their expert advisory panels that inform how they are managing the pandemic.

“If Queensland gets this right now and imposes stricter work, health and safety standards on hospitals, less illness and deaths from COVID-19 will occur. It is as simple as that.”

We must stop being obstinate about this and learn from what has happened in Victoria, or we will simply see the same level of tragedy unfolding where workers, through no fault of their own, are infected, and then infect vulnerable patients.” Ms Kemp said.

-ENDS-

AIHS Contact:    Rebecca Turnbull
Tel.                      (03) 8336 1995
Email:                 rebecca@aihs.org.au

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.