Health services failing to expand workforces

Victoria’s public and private health services are failing all Victorians when they fail to expand the workforces covering our disciplines. And disappointingly it seems like this won’t change until Victoria’s health system becomes unsustainable under the weight of massive increases in demand.

What is being revealed from this year’s No Pay? No Way! Survey is that members are still working huge amounts of unpaid work. And it is across all of our disciplines.

Management at our public health services are refusing to respond to redress clearly identified staff shortages. Earlier in the year we had Monash Health admit there were shortages in their pathology labs only to then have them turn around and claim there weren’t any staff shortages. We see at Alfred Health efforts to introduce a new roster that actually has overtime built into the roster as a substitute for permanent staff, while refusing to acknowledge they have significant staff shortages.

The survey is revealing that members do unpaid work because it is the only way for our members to complete huge workloads. Members have so far reported they are doing more than 3 hours of unpaid work a fortnight to get their normal work completed. Once again members are saying the reason for performing unpaid work is simply because there are not enough staff.

Members report doing unpaid work is predominantly performed after their rostered hours and during meal and rest breaks.

It is also clear from survey responses to date that by and large services would not be able to continue if members stopped doing unpaid work. Hence the reliance on this form of wage theft to keep public health ticking along is becoming more deeply entrenched.

It is clear there is widespread non-compliance with enterprise agreement provisions requiring health services to replace on leave or prioritise work in order to keep workloads in balance. These new provisions, negotiated to prevent workloads increasing when colleagues are on leave are being negated by the very cause they were negotiated to address; under-staffing.

We are picking up a worrying trend that indicates more and more members are not able to take time off or access their leave entitlements due to understaffing.

There is another worrying trend we’re noticing in our surveys and that is the worsening direct impacts unsustainable workloads are having on members’ health and well-being. Overwhelmingly members are reporting that their health and well-being is being impacted and the impact has worsened since the last survey.

This year we included questions about mental health anxiety and stress to find out the impact of the workloads is having. It’s quite evident from results to date that members’ mental health is being negatively affected and that workload related stress and anxiety is a very significant feature across all of our disciplines.

It’s also worth highlighting the surprisingly high number of members reporting that they have had to take leave due the level of stress and anxiety they’re experiencing at work due to the workloads

Members are also reporting a growing concern about the impact of sustainable workloads on patient safety and quality standards.

In summary our survey continues to highlight:

  • Workloads continue to increase and management is failing to respond
  • Staff are left to pick up extra work when colleagues are on leave or away sick
  • General and mental health and well-being is being severely negatively impacted by the extreme workloads
  • Stress and anxiety about workloads and impact on patient safety are acutely felt by members and
  • High workloads are contributing to members leaving their positions, including through early retirement which is like to further exacerbate workload and workforce issues

Sadly, we’re not entirely surprised by the results of this year’s survey so far and it continues to highlight the very serious trends of failure to build workforces to the level needed to safely deliver services, a failure of management to deal with workloads and increasing general and mental health impacts with increasing stress and anxiety about workloads.

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