House debates

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Constituency Statements

COVID-19: Healthcare Workers

10:06 am

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications and Cyber Security) Share this | | Hansard source

While this hasn't been the summer that any Australian wanted to have, we all had hopes that the worst of the pandemic was behind us and that we could get on with a much-needed break over the warmer months—going on a holiday, getting to a festival, catching up with mates or spending Christmas relaxing with the family. The virus, unfortunately, had other plans.

I've said it many times over the past two years of this pandemic, but the healthcare workers on the front lines of this crisis have been the heroes of this pandemic. I've thanked them many times in this place and in our community, and during the last lockdown in Melbourne I arranged a thank you hamper for every member of staff at the Altona North Respiratory Clinic, in my electorate, run by Dr Mukesh Haikerwal—a familiar face to all Victorians. They've done nation-leading work in delivering both testing and vaccinations to our community. But, while the focus is often on clinicians, it's not just the doctors and the nurses who bear the brunt of the pandemic. This pandemic has, for example, put a spotlight on the heavy burden carried by our aged-care workers and the enormous stresses that they have been put under during this latest outbreak. They have our nation's thanks.

But today I want to highlight and thank two groups of frontline healthcare workers who are sometimes overlooked—the people manning the phones and the front counters at our GP clinics and our pharmacies. The receptionists at our local GP clinics are often the first interactions we have with our local doctor. They support the work of our GPs every day and they play a vital role in our healthcare system. The staff at your local pharmacy are a similar point of first contact. They're on the front lines. They're the people who anxious, scared and sick Australians turn to for advice and assistance.

As I said earlier, it hasn't been the summer that any of us wanted, but it has been a particularly difficult one for people staffing our GP clinics and our pharmacies. They've had to field waves of calls from frustrated Australians trying to book vaccination appointments in the face of distribution failures, including parents who've had long-booked vaccination appointments for their kids cancelled because of these distribution failures and have been scrambling to find a new appointment before school returns. I know that my family experienced this on the school holidays. They've had to deal with wave after wave of frustrated Australians calling and turning up at the front counter asking, 'Do you have any rapid tests available?' They've had to deal with anxious mobs turning up at their workplaces on the back of an internet rumour.

The frontline staff at our pharmacies and our GP clinics have borne the brunt of our community's frustrations and anxiety at not being able to get a jab or a RAT. They shouldn't have had to cop the consequences of this government's failure to do its job and its failure to plan ahead on RATs and vaccinations. They've had no easy job, and I'm sure that everyone in this place will join me in thanking them for their service to our community. We see the work that you have done and what you've had to put up with. Thank you for everything you've done for our community during this frustrating summer.