Insidious and redundant mandates

14 February, 2023

I was intrigued by the former member’s contribution, having regard to the fact that everybody's agreed on universal healthcare. Everybody wants the best for their community. And there's a very clear statement by the member that these families are under enormous pressure from cost-of-living expenses, exacerbated by the problems within health care in Australia.

Right around the country we're seeing ambulances ramping at every hospital, and it's getting worse and worse. It's not getting better. This is exacerbated by cuts to the telehealth and mental health rebates and by exhausted and overwhelmed GPs, doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. Our health and hospital systems are in freefall. In fact, there was one lady who was going for an allied healthcare appointment in Gippsland. She was in such pain she thought she'd call in to the hospital, on her way to the appointment, for some pain relief. They said, 'It's no good sitting here; we can't see you for two and a half hours,' and she was in such pain that she called into the hospital for help.

I've never known a time like this in my time as a representative or as a member of the community. No-one seems to care enough about what's happening in the system to ask questions. No-one's asking why—what's causing our nation's first-class health system to crumble in so many areas? There's a lot of blame being attributed to workforce shortages and staff being sick with COVID and other flu viruses, so why isn't the health minister putting pressure on state counterparts to drop the insidious and redundant COVID-19 mandates and reinstate our heroic frontline workers who remain unable to work due to the mandates because they are not vaccinated?

One of these workers is Lexie Tuckett—she doesn't mind me using her name. She's 22 years of age, and her story is heartbreaking. Lexie told me that it was always her dream to help others, and she was rightly very proud when she graduated, in December 2021, with a Bachelor of Paramedicine. Four weeks later, she started her induction with the New South Wales Ambulance service. Part of the pre-employment check related to vaccines, but she was not at all concerned. She was up to date with all vaccines and had a medical exemption for the COVID-19 vaccination approved by Medicare, with a signed letter from her doctor. On the second day of her induction, Lexie received an email from New South Wales Ambulance to advise that her exemption had not met the ATAGI guidelines and that her COVID-19 vaccination exemption could not be approved. To continue with New South Wales Ambulance, she'd have to have her first dose of COVID-19 vaccination in three days time and have the second dose three weeks after that.

While Lexie's parents sought urgent legal advice on her behalf, Lexie was stood down, effective immediately, and advised she would be placed on leave without pay until vaccinated. Lexie was able to give her service to the high-country Ski Patrol. Why is it that she could give her service to save a life—which she did, in the high country—working with the Ski Patrol but couldn't work as a paramedic in New South Wales? How could that be, and how many hundreds and hundreds of professional health workers are out there cleaning toilets and washing dishes, instead of doing what they should be doing: helping the people that they love?

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Russell Broadbent MP
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