HSUWA Letter to Roger Cook, Dr Russell-Weisz on HSUWA workers and the Covid-19 Crisis

Friday 20 Mar 2020

HSUWA have written to the WA Health Minister and Dr Russell-Weisz,

Dear Minister Cook and 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 understand the state government and
Department of Health are reacting as quickly as possible to this crisis in difficult circumstances.

Our members across the health sector are trusted and respected professionals in our community
who will continue to do their best to look after their fellow Western Australians, in partnership with
the state government and the Department of Health. We know tough times are with us and likely
tougher times are ahead.


We ask for recognition from government that healthcare workers are critical to our state’s response
to the COVID-19 pandemic. We ask for this to be acknowledged by government and accordingly
seek the following:


Safety


The priority of the union is the safety of members and the community.


We strongly advocate that adequate PPE be provided to all healthcare workers who are in
potential contact with COVID-19 patients or suspected COVID-19 patients.

We ask that workload concerns raised by members in their workplace or by the union are
escalated and addressed with urgency by the Health Service Providers (HSPs).

For example, we
currently have significant concerns over:
• the long length of shifts;
• the number of consecutive days of work; and
• payment of overtime hours (rather than accrual of TOIL or Flexitime).


We ask for a significantly increased Security Officer presence at all hospitals with an ED. These
workers should be public sector employees. Security Officers who are currently casuals should be
offered permanent employment immediately.


Leave

Healthcare workers need to be able to access leave for the purposes of self-care and to care for
their family members.

In recognition of the vital role and higher exposure to risk that our members

are facing, we ask you act to immediately exempt healthcare workers from the requirement under
Circular #5/2020 – COVID-19 and Employment Flexibilities that personal and other leave
entitlements be used ahead of COVID-19 Leave.


In addition, private labour hire employees and contractors are working throughout our public
hospitals in similar conditions as their public sector colleagues with lesser entitlements and
protections. We ask that the state government and Department of Health apply significant pressure
to those private providers to ensure that this inequity is remedied.


We note that Ramsay Health Care in particular, is not availing their workers of the same or similar
access to COVID-19 type leave. This is at effectively two public hospital sites with busy EDs.
Ramsay Health Care and other private sector providers to government should also be providing
the same or better entitlements contained within Circular #5.


Workers’ compensation


We strongly advocate that in the case of any claim for workers’ compensation for a healthcare
worker infected with COVID-19 that there be a rebuttable presumption applied that it was
contracted in the course of their employment.


Testing


We ask for priority access to testing and results for healthcare workers. We ask for priority access
to flu vaccinations.


Workforce planning


In relation to the imminent surge in the health workforce, the union seeks:

• consultation with the HSPs and the system-manager about where, by who, when and how
new staff will be engaged;
• new starter information be provided promptly; and
• access to discussions with new starters and inductions.


For the existing workforce, please note our members are concerned about transfers (of duties and
locations), changes to their scope of practice and basic consultation before decisions relating to
the above are made. We know that decisions made in haste, with all the best intentions, can lead
to poor decisions that affect health outcomes.


Given the likely closure in the coming days or weeks of childcare centres and schools, we are
deeply concerned that healthcare workers with children may be unable to attend work during the
height of the crisis. We ask government to consider the creation of dedicated childcare and/or
school centres exclusively available to the children of healthcare workers. We think the
Department of Health and HSPs are uniquely capable of doing this safely.


We ask that any employee who is a casual or fixed term contract who has met the length of service
criterion contained within Commissioner’s Instruction 23 (CI-23) be immediately converted to
permanency. This is to ensure workforce continuity and the retention of critical knowledge at this
time of crisis. For those employees currently on fixed term contracts, not included above, we ask
that all contracts that may reach the end of the term for the next 6 months, automatically roll over
for 6 months.


We also note that the continuation of disputes in relation to CI-23, is not a good use of resources.
In particular, a speedy resolution of the NMHS Security Officers dispute we believe would lead to a
more appropriate use of NMHS resources, particularly given the acute need for the security of our
healthcare workers and the community.


We consider the union to be a vital stakeholder in this fight against COVID-19. We commit to
engaging responsibly in the coming months as a recognised and considered advocate for
healthcare workers. We appreciate that some of the items in this letter are already being
considered or progressed by government and look forward to your responses, particularly in
relation to access to access to COVID-19 Leave for Western Australian healthcare workers.


Yours sincerely,

Naomi McCrae
Secretary HSUWA
cc: Liz McCleod, Kelly Worlock, Alex Lyons

Get In Touch