Since the pandemic started governments around the world have been thanking healthcare workers. A perfect example is the applauding from balconies that occurred in the U.K. Another example is the daily video updates from the Australian government saying “thanks for your hard work”.

We need more than words of gratitude – we need more staff

Healthcare workers before COVID have put in countless hours of overtime, sacrificed time with their family and friends, and struggled with specialty training. Since the pandemic this has intensified and new obstacles have been added.

Understaffing has worsened to the degree that every shift is lacking workers. For months I did the job of at least two doctors daily, sometimes four doctors at one time. As holes grew in the staffing the management’s response was to “absorb amongst ourselves”.

If anyone had issues with the way things were managed we would get a response about how we should be “team players”.

Shifts would be changed last minute, sometimes you would show up the day of work and figure out where you had been reassigned. Even though legally we require 14 days notice for shift changes, the pandemic gave the loop hole of “emergency change” to everything. Even if it wasn’t something urgent.

Photo by Hayley Seibel on Unsplash

We need protective equipment

When the pandemic first hit, our management told us we weren’t allowed to wear masks. They said it would ‘worry the public’. Fast forward to my first exposure to COVID and a 14 day isolation stint (pre-vaccine).

Once the dangers of COVID became established we were told to wear surgical masks at all times, but not N95s as they were ‘precious resources’. Then came my next exposure to COVID without proper protective equipment. This time I did get COVID-19, and had to miss out on Christmas with my family.

We need face shields and widely available N95s.

Photo by Pam Menegakis on Unsplash

We need readily available COVID testing

There are no clinics available for healthcare workers to test for COVID. Even if you’re exposed at work there are no RATs given, or PCRs. I asked my Director of Medical Services how I could best get tested when I was on night shifts (after my work exposure). Their response was, “you will just have to go to a public clinic in your own time”.

The lines for PCR testing take three hours at least, and 5-6 days for a test to come back. RATs need to be bought, and are out of stock in most stores. The PM is making a hard stance against ‘free RATs’, even though individuals pay tens of thousands of dollars in tax annually. PCRs are no longer necessary, just RATs, yet where are they. How will case numbers be reported?

UPDATE: As of Feb 2022 most hospitals now give RATs to their employees if indicated. This has been a massive help.

We need safe leave

Getting leave is another issue while isolating with COVID or as a close contact. It is often taken out of your annual leave.

Now isolation is being cut shorter and shorter, to avoid staffing deficits. The USA are changing rules so that COVID-19 positive staff can go back to work as long as they are afebrile for over 24 hours. I fear it won’t be long before the world adopts this change.

We need safe leave and easier access to testing. For staff and patient safety.

Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

More vaccines

Most of the population has at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The second dose numbers are getting up there too. However, we need to push for third and fourth doses to reduce the effects of Omicron and future new variants.

For those frontline workers being constantly exposed to COVID-19, we need access to boosters faster.

Less talk, more action please

Less words of thanks and more help please. The public health system was fragile before the pandemic hit, and is even more so now.

Help us please, through better staffing, less unpaid overtime, more available tests, access to COVID leave, and boosters. Don’t just say thanks. It isn’t enough.