This week, HACSU members at Alfred Health have reported shockingly unsafe workplace situations developing due to severe understaffing.
Alfred Health has opened a separate ward dedicated to suspected and confirmed COVID-19 positive patients with behaviours of concern, which has left mental health wards dangerously understaffed.
To counter this understaffing, Alfred Health has pulled in allied health staff (including occupational therapists and art therapists) to cover the cracks in staffing. HACSU has long advocated for more allied health staff on wards, but these workers are being asked to work outside their scope. The majority of allied health members have not been trained in mental health assessments and have never been expected to conduct these assessments — but that is what they’re being asked to do.
Alongside this, nursing staff have—in some instances—had no choice but to double the load of medication rounds. This is because the deployed staff now covering shifts aren’t trained to administer medication. This is unacceptable. It puts workers at risk and puts the community relying on Alfred Health at risk.
Workers at Alfred Health have always helped their community with some of the most challenging and complex mental health issues. Alongside this work, they’ve had no problem stepping up to help Victoria by being redeployed into Hotel Quarantine to help with the COVID-19 response. We all know that COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our public healthcare system. However, nurses and allied health workers are now being forced to work within unrealistic and unsafe expectations, and in our view, consistently in breach of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Alfred Health already has a high instance of occupational violence on-site, with 96% of members stating that they have witnessed occupational violence towards their colleagues by patients.
The situation at Alfred Health is extremely dangerous, and the current arrangement is likely to lead to a poor outcome for consumers, our members and the community. Nurses, allied mental health, and administrative staff do not feel safe coming to work. Our members have expressed grave concern that consumer care is being severely impacted due to the lack of staffing.
Alfred Health’s situation demonstrates the urgent need for the Victorian government to settle the public mental health enterprise bargaining agreement and solidify their commitment to implementing every recommendation of the Royal Commission. It is not enough to name workers on the frontlines of COVID-19 “healthcare heroes”. We need meaningful and ongoing investment into mental health.
Media Contact: Stephanie Thuesen | 0436 363 612 or firstname.lastname@example.org