Triple shifts, going home in tears: WA doctor exposes chronic hospital understaffing and COVID fears

Triple shifts, going home in tears: WA doctor exposes chronic hospital understaffing and COVID fears. By An exhausted doctor.

Western Australia is one of the last jurisdictions in the world without covid. We have had only one death due to community spread of covid. For nearly all that time, we’ve had no lockdown or masking. But our government has decided to open up to the world on February 5, 2022. Then, inevitably, we will copy South Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland, and have hundreds of cases with two weeks and thousands within a month.

Problem is, our hospitals are already overstretched. WA is about 70% vaccinated (of the total population), but have had almost no covid. So our hospitals are not full because of covid. The health authorities will not say, and are being coy and uninformative. Nurses say privately that the wards have lots of “complicated” cases. Maybe vaccines?

The government is rolling in money (due to high iron ore prices), and we’ve had two years to prepare for covid. You work it out:

Dear Mr McGowan [the state’s political leader], …

No matter how hard you work to convince the general public that you have done all you can to prepare, I can tell you fundamentally, as someone who works in that system every day, that we are not.

That patients are going to die because this system is already overwhelmed, and chronically understaffed, leaving our most vulnerable patients at risk of harm, and our nurses, doctors and allied health staff already burnt out.

I’m not sure of another industry where it is acceptable to be asked to do double or, for some nurses, even triple shifts because there is no one else to call in?

During the three recent public holidays, I was expected to do my job, and the job of two other doctors, where the priority becomes simply keeping patients alive because the hospital is trying to exist on skeleton staff.

What’s going to happen when we have public holidays and normal patient loads and COVID?

We are constantly bombarded with desperate emails and calls to fill gaps in rosters.

Pay at 2.5 times the normal rate, travel allowances and other incentives are mentioned, but the novelty soon wears off when you are so fatigued, your bones ache and all you want is a day off.

And yet, we keep doing it because we feel we owe it to our patients and our colleagues, to try to keep this train wreck moving forward. …

I wonder in how many other industries you go home and cry because you are so concerned about your patients, but there is near nothing you can do to advocate for them when the system is so chronically underfunded, understaffed and under-resourced.

While we deal with all this, we know the stories of our colleagues from the east coast, and we can viscerally feel the wave of COVID infections coming. You’ve had two years. …

Those of us from over east, or from overseas, haven’t seen our families for months, if not years.

And yet, we are still expected to pick up the pieces, and go to work each day, while you tell us that we are prepared. We’re not. We’re done. We’re fatigued.

The thought of having to deal with COVID infections on top of this current mess, leaves us in tears. …

Yours sincerely,
An exhausted doctor


The rest of Australia has already joined the covid-vaccine party:


Time to reconsider, Mr McGowan?

hat-tip Stephen Neil