Image: LGBTIQ+ Taskfroce co-chair, Jayde de Bondt
By DANIEL LO SURDO
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has discussed a potential health care worker payment scheme with Treasurer Matt Kean, which would include an immediate bonus of $5000 ahead of an identical payment in 12 months, and a ‘pandemic payment’ of $60 per shift for nurses and paramedics across the state.
It comes after Upper House Greens Member Cate Faehrmann amassed over 13,000 signatures in support of the NurseKeeper payment, which calls on Mr Perrottet to install a scheme similar to what is in place in Victoria.
The petition estimates that NurseKeeper would cost less than $2 billion, and “might make the difference between hundreds, if not thousands, of nurses and paramedics quitting over the next few weeks and months” as hospitalisations and intensive care admissions grow following the Omicron surge.
“We will continue to look at providing as much support as we can to keep those heroes on the front line to be able to continue the important work they’re doing day in, day out,” Mr Perrottet said.
“I understand there is that submission [health care worker payment], I’ve discussed it with the Treasurer and we’ll look at that moving forward.”
In October last year, the Victorian government announced a new hospital surge support allowance to be paid to patient-facing healthcare workers and Ambulance Victoria over the upcoming summer.
Workers critical to the care of COVID-19 patients and staffing emergency departments would be eligible for up to $60 per shift, with Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley saying that the allowance will “support the incredible work that our health professionals are doing” during the pandemic.
NSW Member for Newtown Jenny Leong said that the NurseKeeper petition was having a “big impact”, adding that bringing attention to the payment was “the least we can do to help our exhausted nurses, midwives and paramedics”.
NSW Health reported rises in deaths, hospitalisation and intensive care admissions during the past 24 hours, with 35 new deaths and 13,333 positive cases detected up to 8:00 pm on January 27. The Sydney Local Health District recorded 1,074 new cases, with one person from the Inner West and one from the Eastern Suburbs dying following exposure to the virus.
The surge in figures come four days before NSW schools are expected to return on February 1, with fears that many students will arrive in classrooms unvaccinated after children aged 5-11 only became eligible for their first jab on January 10. The use of publicly-provided rapid antigen tests will be critical for the success of the return, with students and staff members asked to submit a rapid test twice a week for the first four weeks of term as part of the state’s mass surveillance testing program.