Western Australia’s nurses union is worried continued COVID-19 domestic border closures will impede efforts to find more badly needed hospital staff.
The McGowan government has launched a recruitment drive amid growing problems within the state’s crowded public hospitals but has been heavily criticised by the Australian Nursing Federation for not doing more.
ANF state secretary Mark Olson was on Thursday set to hold what he described as an “emergency meeting” with nurses and midwives at King Edward Memorial Hospital.
He said WA was still somewhere between 120 and 150 midwives short and the impact was being felt in the state’s primary maternity hospital.
“The only reason this hospital behind me is surviving is because the nurses and the midwives are doing record numbers of double shifts and overtime, and this cannot continue,” he told reporters.
“For the last few months, they’ve been trying to stabilise the public health system and you cannot continue to do that unless you get some reinforcements.”
The McGowan government has promised to find an additional 600 nurses over the next two years and says more than 200 are already on wards.
Mr Olson said there had been a lack of planning by health bureaucrats to ensure recruitment could be maintained through border closures.
WA’s border is currently closed to all of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.
“The Delta variant is not going to go away, and we have to start having the conversation about how we’re going to be able to continue recruiting staff from interstate through the border closures,” he said.
“They’ve had 18 months to make these types of plans.”
Premier Mark McGowan on Thursday announced an expansion of the state’s coronavirus vaccination rollout, creating an additional 10,000 appointments per week from the end of July.
Mr Olson said the state government’s vaccination clinics were being staffed by “very experienced nurses” who were needed in hospitals.
He suggested third-year nursing students would be more than capable of administering the jabs.
“We have students giving injections in our hospitals,” he said.
“Why can’t we release some of those experienced nurses, get them back into our hospitals and get the students doing the vaccinations?”
The state government has said existing recruitment efforts will be boosted by the launch of an advertising campaign to fill “in-demand” roles such as those in emergency care and midwifery.