CENA – COVID-19 Update – Protecting Frontline Healthcare Workers

As the government and health-care stakeholders work together towards containment of COVID-19, it is critically important to consider and protect the wellbeing of emergency nurses and frontline healthcare workers. As the peak body for Emergency Nursing, CENA specifically represents Emergency Nurses however we take a broader view in this instance and seek government and stakeholder intervention to support all frontline healthcare workers.

CENA understands and supports the steps that the government and healthcare authorities have been taken to contain COVID-19. We appreciate that the curve is flattening and that decisive preventive action will ultimately reduce the impact of COVID-19 in the community. Across Australia, and internationally, Emergency nurses and frontline healthcare workers are dedicated to protecting and treating patients and take their roles in the containment of COVID-19 seriously.

The nature of working in a frontline healthcare environment during a pandemic means that significant demands are being placed on our Emergency Nurses and healthcare workers including a greater risk of infection from COVID-19.

This increased risk highlights the need to protect and provide support to our frontline healthcare workers in the areas of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and Sick Leave.

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – CENA acknowledges that the relevant authorities have aimed to provide sufficient PPE and guidance for its use during this period however there is a shortage and also a lack of clear national guidelines for its use. This is compounded by individual health authorities and hospitals setting their own rules in order to preserve their stocks of PPE. We request that the relevant government authority establish clear national guidelines for the use of PPE during the COVID-19 containment and management period.

Sick Leave – CENA requests urgent intervention and revision of the current policies on sick leave for Emergency Nurses and frontline healthcare workers who contract COVID-19 due to exposure in the course of their work and require leave. At present, some services expect their staff to use annual leave if their do not have sick leave and contract COVID-19. This situation is not acceptable. Emergency nurses and frontline healthcare workers are placed at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 while performing their duties and CENA requests that a new category of paid leave be introduced to cover people whose work exposes them to COVID-19 – either overtly or indirectly.

CENA members have expressed their appreciation and thank the efforts of the community for the many “random acts of selflessness” that have been shown to our members. CENA also notes and appreciates the steps taken by the retail sector where they have extended priority shopping hours to healthcare and emergency workers.

Acknowledging the support of the community, CENA seeks official intervention across the critical areas of PPE and Sick Leave to ensure that our members and related healthcare workers are protected and the maximum number of emergency nurses and frontline healthcare workers are kept in the field and able to serve the community.

For more information please contact National Office on national@cena.org.au