Doctors Deserve Safe Working Environments

11-Sep-2020

All workers have the right to a healthy and safe working environment. The renewed risk of COVID-19 spreading in NSW hospitals has contributed to concerns around unsafe working environments.

The 3300-plus coronavirus infections that have been recorded among healthcare workers, mostly in Victoria, are completely unacceptable. More needs to be done across governments to improve infection control practices.

This week, an outbreak at Concord Hospital has now infected 14 people, with the first case in the cluster from an emergency department doctor who worked at both Concord and Liverpool hospitals. The cluster now includes nine healthcare workers and has forced around 100 doctors, nurses and allied health workers into self-isolation.

COVID-19 has shone a light on the need for public hospitals to rethink workplace configurations, identify risks, and implement control measures to address those risks.

ASMOF has also been campaigning hard for appropriate levels of PPE and fit testing for all health workers who wear P2/N95 masks. In a positive step, the Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) recently announced that fit testing is required for all medical staff working in high risk areas or performing certain procedures on patients with COVID-19.

While emergency departments arguably face a more immediate risk of COVID-19, ASMOF members have raised concerns of “backroom transmission” in communal spaces. ASMOF is particularly concerned about this in light of a number of hospitals in NSW seeking to reduce the office spaces provided to Staff Specialists in favour of open plan environments. In the face of increased health risks to workers, ASMOF remains committed to fighting any attempts to erode acceptable and safe accommodation standards for Staff Specialists.

The evidence clearly shows that dense concentration of workers is a dangerous incubator of infectious diseases. South Korea’s Centre for Disease Control recently published an investigation demonstrating how quickly COVID-19 can spread in a high-density working environment. It found that, over the course of 16 days beginning on February 21, on one floor of a call centre where 216 employees worked, 94 people tested positive for the virus.

The health risks of open plan layouts are far too critical for hospital management to inflict on Staff Specialists.The obvious solution is private, enclosed offices for Staff Specialists.

Workers have the right to a healthy and safe working environment. If you are concerned about unsafe practices in your workplace, email allocation@asmof.org.au