Exhausted Healthcare Workforce Puts Vaccine Rollout Capacity at Risk

The union representing Hospital Pharmacists (the HSU) has today spoken out about their members, a key clinical workforce, being seriously understaffed and suffering really high levels of fatigue.

The Union says fatigue and burnout levels have reached the point where Pharmacists are finding it increasingly difficult to complete work in normal working hours, which compounds high workload stress and anxiety.

The HSU says it is particularly concerned that low pharmacist staffing levels will impact vaccine rollout programs across public health services. The union is concerned that fatigued and burnt-out Pharmacists will struggle to maintain their capacity to play their key role in the vaccine rollout, and fears this would slow the program down.

Public hospital staffing data shows that Pharmacist numbers in hospital pharmacies across the state is on average 25% below the levels recommended by the Victorian Pharmacy Authority, the Victorian Government’s own regulator of hospital pharmacies.

The HSU has been negotiating a new enterprise agreement with public hospitals and the State Government since August 2020. The HSU says Pharmacists are infuriated by hospitals and the Government recognising the lack of staff but demanding pharmacists and other staff covered by the enterprise agreement having to bargain for extra staff by finding savings in other areas.

The HSU says the negotiations for a new enterprise agreement covering classifications such as medical scientists, psychologists, dietitians, medical physicists as well as pharmacists have been frustratingly slow. The Government’s policy of keeping wage increases very low has made negotiations impossible. It has now reached the point where these healthcare workers have agreed they may need to take industrial action.

HSU members are angry their work in delivering a world leading COVID pandemic response counts for nothing in negotiating a fair outcome to their claims.

The HSU says the work of medical scientists are an outstanding example of Victoria’s public health workforce leading the world in COVID testing, and now feel they are being ignored and forgotten.

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