Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer press conference on 14 September 2020

Read the transcript of Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Professor Alison McMillan's press conference on COVID-19 on 14 September 2020.

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Today is the start of Community Nursing Week, where we recognise the amazing work done by the more than 124,000 nurses working across our community, whether it's in a general practice, in hospice, in the Defence Force, in schools, in a whole range of places across the country. These nurses often go unrecognised as people often think of nurses predominately in hospital. But these have been a vital part of our enormous success in containing this COVID-19 pandemic, and I give a particular recognition to all of our community nurses who work so hard out there, often in challenging situations and often in difficult situations.           

So, again, it is Community Nursing Week, and we ask that you take a moment to reflect on the amazing work that our nurses do, but also recognising the amazing work nurses do in every other aspect of our healthcare system in Australia. Highly trained and skilled professionals who protect your health and wellbeing every day.           

I'll go to the case numbers for today. So, today I can tell you that we have now had 26,692 COVID positive cases in Australia since the commencement of the pandemic. Sadly, 816 deaths have been associated with this pandemic, and every death is a tragedy, and we again pass our condolences to all of those family and friends who have lost loved ones. Today, the numbers are of course very encouraging. In the last 24 hours we've knowingly only seen 39 positive cases, and sadly seven deaths. Of those 39, 12 of those in Victoria were locally acquired with a confirmed contact, and 23 are under investigation. But pleasingly, in New South Wales with four cases, three of those are from overseas acquired, and are in hotel quarantine. And the other case is a confirmed- with a confirmed contact, so there is no community transmission of unknown origin in New South Wales, which is testament to the achievement of New South Wales Health. And as quoted previously, they're gold standard in their ability to track and trace and isolate.           

141 people remain in hospital today, being cared for, associated with COVID-19. 18 of those in intensive care. And certainly, we are- now have done more than 7 million tests for COVID-19 in Australia since the commencement of this pandemic. So, I'm happy to take questions. And I think there is a question on the telephone?


Hi Alison, it's Sarah calling from The West Australian. Thank you for taking my question. I just have a question about the nursing workforce. Do we have any figures or idea of how many nurses or healthcare workers have been affected nationally? What is the proportion of the workforce? And my reason for asking this question is I was just wondering is there any concerns about the long-term impact on the nursing workforce that this pandemic is going to have, given already the high burnout rate associated with this sector and the workers in this sector?


Sarah, I don't have to hand right now the total number of healthcare workers across Australia who have tested positive. We can provide that to you and probably as best we can, a breakdown by profession. We are learning- relative to those that have acquired the infection, we are still learning a great deal about this disease, and we do know that for some people it does have a prolonged impact on their health, and is a long recovery time. But we continue to support those. I think more importantly, Sarah, we know that the work in itself, having to work often for long periods with- wearing PPE is very, very hard on our health and medical workforce. Particularly the nursing workforce at the frontline, who it is- wearing PPE is extraordinarily difficult. So, I think we need to remind everyone out there of our healthcare professionals that if they are feeling stressed or they're struggling, it is a strength in calling out and saying that you are finding it difficult to deal with this situation, and to seek out the help that is necessary, whether it's through a support program or an employee support program, or one of the many mental health programs provided online and by the phone support. And we need to look after each other.


Are you concerned about how all of this is going to contribute to things like burnout rates and so on? That as I understand, even pre-pandemic there were a lot of issues around that. Do you think this is going to exacerbate them, this pandemic in general?


I don't think it's going to exacerbate it to any greater extent if we provide the necessary support to the health and wellbeing, particularly of our nursing profession. And we're doing a great deal of that through a whole range of programs and education. It's one of many challenges my profession faces on a daily basis, and as always, nurses have continued to work and perform at the best quality of care and very professionally in a number of things.

So, yes, our profession does suffer from burnout at times and does work under extreme pressure, but we work together to try to support each other so that we can minimise the impact on the individuals and on the system.


Thank you.


Thanks, Sarah. Any other questions? Okay. Thank you for your time.


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