New South Wales has invited fully vaccinated Covid-positive nurses to work in hospitals, but continues to ban Covid-negative unvaccinated staff.
The bizarre scenario that appears to defy logic has been caused by severe staff shortages.
Not only has New South Wales sacked (or forced the resignation) of unvaccinated staff after a mandatory vaccination health directive was issued, thousands of fully vaccinated staff are now in isolation due to Covid infections.
Recalling Covid-positive nurses to work remains a breach of the New South Wales state health protocols. Desperate hospitals have allegedly made the request via private memos and it is not a part of any official directive. Unsurprisingly, other staff members inside the hospital system are not happy about being forced to work alongside infected colleagues.
While the New South Wales government did relax health regulations to allow healthcare workers who were close contacts to return to work, it did not go so far as to invite active cases into hospitals. The exemption released by Health Minister Brad Hazzard on New Year’s Eve was meant to apply only in ‘exceptional circumstances’ to avoid disruption in key areas.
“Healthcare workers in NSW who test positive to Covid are required to isolate at home and are not permitted to return to work until they are released from isolation,” insisted a spokesperson from NSW Health.
Of the nurses interviewed in public hospitals, all have said that they were given ‘unofficial, verbal advice from their hospitals’ that if they were asymptomatic, they could leave their state-mandated isolation and return to work despite being positive for Covid. Returning nurses must wear PPE.
Others have already claimed that symptomatic nurses have been seen working inside hospitals. There is also confusion about whether the Covid-positive nurses are confined to Covid wards, or if they are wandering around and freely interacting with healthy patients in other areas.
“It’s like everyone has given up. I’m absolutely devastated. It’s a circus … positive nurses working with healthy staff and non-Covid patients,” said one nurse to The Guardian.
It might also prove a legal nightmare, with unvaccinated staff who were either sacked or forced to resign now having a case against their employers. If they were ‘dismissed to protect the workplace from Covid’, what are hospitals doing actively inviting Covid-positive staff back into work?
The question could even be asked of Health Minister Brad Hazzard, why hasn’t he directed hospitals to re-hire sacked (but healthy) unvaccinated staff to fill the critical shortage?