HSUWA Letter to DG of Health Dr Russell-Weisz: What Health Workers Need Now

Thursday 26 Mar 2020

HSUWA has written to the Minister for Health and DG of Health about what health workers need as this crisis begins, the letter follows:

Dear Dr Russell-Weisz,

HSUWA members and COVID-19

The Health Services Union of Western Australia (HSUWA) is writing in relation to the evolving COVID-19 crisis and issues that affect our members. We refer to our earlier letter to you of 20 March 2020. 

On behalf of our members in health, we now write to explain how the mixed messages across health are causing increasing the levels of uncertainty amongst health workers.

We understand the huge amount of catch up being undertaking over the last month as the WA health system reconfigures many systems to fight COVID-19.

Our WA health system is clearly not designed to provide for a co-ordinated, centralised response to a health crisis.

With the best intentions and experienced professionals working so hard to overcome the barriers, our members report misinformation and confusion amongst workers across the system. This is in part from other factors, but we think WA Health needs to step in to address this problem more urgently.

We call your attention to the need for far greater information sharing about what WA Health is doing and planning, so that workers at each state Health Service Provider understands what is expected as this crisis develops. At the HSP level there is a range of different communications going on, and there appears to be little uniformity.

We think there needs to be basic stakeholder engagement so that the key parts of the system, private and public, understand what is going on. At this stage, unions representing thousands of health workers are being sidelined.

Issues from the health frontline need to be raised directly with decision makers.

We believe that if clear channels and structures are not set up to allow for regular information to be fed up to the top of WA health, this confusion will get worse as the crisis develops.

There are serious issues that our members are reporting, which include availability and use of PPE, working from home and the closing of services, changes to duties etc that we think could be addressed in some ways, by the following steps:

  • We urge you to set up a basic communication channel in any form to allow for information to be shared across the stakeholders in WA Health. Our preferred approach is a stakeholder forum that allows for the transparent sharing of information in a collaborative and constructive way.

 

  • We urge you to publicly explain to health workers what the plans are to ensure PPE is used to protect health workers – when, by who and how. Especially that there is transparency about supplies and information shared about how decisions will be made to prioritise access and shore up supplies.

 

  • We urge you to publicly direct the HSPs to urgently prioritise working from home arrangements wherever possible – both approvals and sets ups.

 

We will continue to engage with the State Government and each HSP for members on all the issues our members are raising. We hope that a greater alignment of the various stakeholders can be achieved as soon as possible, so that our health workers are protected and we can better meet the challenge ahead in unity.

Yours sincerely,

Naomi McCrae

Secretary HSUWA

cc: Deputy Premier and Minster for Health Roger Cook

Liz McCleod, Kelly Worlock, Alex Lyons

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