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Australia’s COVID-19 Delta outbreak is pushing healthcare workers to the limit. These are their stories…

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April* is one of thousands. 

A “hidden face of the pandemic”, she calls it.

One of a small army working around the clock across Australia to ensure the COVID-19 healthcare cogs keep rolling. 

April is a hospital pathologist, one of the healthcare workers ensuring COVID-19 tests are collected and assessed — a critical role in Australia’s ongoing protection against COVID-19.

IMAGE: Laboratory testing for Covid-19 antibodies. CDC, Unsplash.

Yet unlike the country’s contact tracers who, quite rightly, are regularly thanked for their work, or the hospital workers on the front line, pathologists are among the many healthcare professionals who go largely unrecognised. 

Because of the domino effect of COVID-19, healthcare workers across all sectors are under severe pressure. 

According to April, they’re “exhausted, overworked, understaffed and longing to come out the other end of the pandemic”. 

“We’ve had a 300 percent increase in our workload,” she said. “One pathologist said he was starting the day with 9,000 tests to do that day.

“Pathology has long been forgotten. [It’s] the behind-the-scenes department within a hospital. We often feel under-recognised and under-appreciated.  

“I feel exhausted. Everyone is feeling the same: When is this going to stop?”

The ABC put a call out last week asking healthcare workers across the country to tell us about their experiences in the system

April was one of hundreds across the country who got in touch. 

Because of their contracts, most healthcare workers are unable to talk to the media. They spoke to the ABC on the condition their identity would not be revealed.

The ABC will tell the stories of nurses and other hospital workers on the front line, treating COVID patients.

But, as April says, healthcare workers in all industries are feeling the pinch.   

Here’s what some had to say: 

“We are working overtime to treat COVID patients and close contacts with cancer. We’re wearing full PPE and asking them to get COVID tested every three days. The staff are all burnt out and if someone is off sick we have to keep working understaffed. We have never been busier.” 
Irene*, cancer specialist, Sydney.

“I am concerned about the flow-on effects of these rolling lockdowns on the health and wellbeing of children and their families. When I speak to health professionals across a gamut of specialties, so many have expressed deep-seated fatigue and highly pronounced symptoms of burnout.” 
Madison*, paediatric nurse, Victoria.

“As a healthcare worker, it is exhausting turning up every day to motivate and rally my patients when you are so exhausted yourself. I live alone and have a constant underlying anxiety that I will inadvertently turn up to work one day without realising I have contracted COVID in the community so I limit what I do outside of work hours over and above the restrictions.” 
Rebecca*, rehabilitation physiotherapist, Victoria

“I’ve been nervously watching the other states. I’m sure it won’t last, and despite being fully vaccinated, I’m still apprehensively waiting for a WA outbreak and the challenges that will bring.” 
Phillip*, respiratory doctor, Perth  

“Working as a psychologist during the pandemic has been extremely challenging. It’s pressing on my worst tendencies to ‘push through’ and take care of others ahead of myself. The anxiety associated with being more likely to get COVID-19 has been significant; what’s been more profound is the terror of unknowingly passing it on to a vulnerable client [or] bringing it home.” 
Emma*, psychologist, Melbourne

… CONTINUE READING
By medical reporter Sophie Scott and the Specialist Reporting Team’s Nick Sas and
Mary Lloyd.

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