Over 2,000 health workers across New South Wales, Victoria and ACT are currently isolated, placing more pressure on the remaining workforce as Covid cases continue to rise.
The Nurses and Midwives Association of NSW says many health workers in hospitals across this state are working shifts until 4 p.m. to cover the shortfall, while PPE issues have left some staff without access to 'fit-tested' masks.
In NSW, which reported 1,259 new cases and 12 deaths on Wednesday , there are believed to be 1190 agents health facilities currently unavailable due to exposure or infection to Covid, with 101 new cases at 11 different facilities last week.
In Victoria, the average number of staff unavailable due to Covid-19 at all Victorian public hospitals is 736, according to the most recent data available from September 6.
Since then the community- acquired cases have almost doubled, with 423 new cases reported in the state on Wednesday.
The 736 Health workers unavailable due to Covid in Victoria include all hospital staff - not just clinical staff - and those exposed who are not infected.
Brett Holmes, NSW Nurses Association general secretary said the result of the labor force on leave was the remaining ff staff working harder and often doing double shifts up to 16 hours.
"It's overdifficult - they work extremely hard, ”said Holmes. "The effect is often that other people have to take those shifts, of course, or they work longer shifts.
A spokesperson for the Victoria Department of Health said the state government was prepared for the manpower shortage.
" Our hospitals have been preparing for the coronavirus since January of last year, creating additional capacity and ensuring that we have enough beds, equipment and PPE to handle any increase in the number of patients ", they said.
"All health services can access Victoria's advanced workforce if needed, which will increasingly become more important if the number of cases increases and more staff are put on leave.
Holmes stated that if the mandate of vaccInation would help tackle the problem in New South Wales, experience in the UK had shown that Covid cases among vaccinated healthcare workers fell by only 50%.
"We need all of our nurses, midwives and other bedside workers and yes I think the minister and the government are hoping that the requirement of a full vaccination will somehow eliminate this problem of isolating healthcare workers, but given the research being done overseas, I don't agree that it will, ”said Holmes.
“ It's not clear that the need to isolate will be removed because you can't really send someone who is carrying the virus and so that he can contain it behind their mask for eight to 16 hours a day.
On the issue of PPE, Holmes said there washad a shortage of three types of masks, which had left health workers to use masks that had not been tested.
The fit test is the process by which a mask is adjusted and tested to make sure it has an equal and functions correctly.
"There is a problem supply and I don't know how long it will take before it gets fixed, "Holmes said. "They had to switch to other masks and if they weren't tested for the other masks, it requires another round of fit tests.
On Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said NSW health workers were on their way to achieving a 90% first-dose vaccination rate en upstream of a mandate for the sector which enterseffective September 30.
Berejiklian said she was confident that health workers would be vaccinated and that she was not worried that people are leaving the industry.
"I really am convinced that healthcare workers will put the interests of their patients and the interests of their own health first and I am very convinced that we will achieve very high immunization coverage, "said Berejiklian.
" Our health workers see the consequences day after day, for you , of Covid infection. They see ICU patients, hear stories, and I would be very surprised if we would have a lot of hesitation among our healthcare workers. "
NSW was the first state to introduce a warrant for health workers, but Western Australia and Queensland have since followed suit. Victoria is expected to announceset a mandate for health workers with a plan to be discussed at Friday's national cabinet meeting.