The intense pressure on our aged care workers

Credit:Illustration: Jim Pavlidis

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COVID-19

The intense pressure on our aged care workers

We are all suffering various levels of “lockdown fatigue”, manifesting in different ways. However, when I visited an aged care facility this week, the exhaustion of the staff was palpable.

As I waited in the foyer, a senior nurse in full personal protective gear headed to the driveway to undertake regular COVID-19 testing of two of her colleagues. Her plastic gown blowing in the wind, she juggled paperwork and testing kit as well as her time in scheduling this activity, all in addition to her already overwhelming list of daily responsibilities. This testing was not part of her job description a year ago. Difficulties for management in accessing replacement or agency staff means that nurses and carers are continually adding to their list of daily duties. May “opening up” provide relief to this sector. I fear that their breaking point is not far away.
Felicity Browne, Toorak

Our health services are stretched to their limits

I feel the need to help your corespondent – “Failure of foresight” (Letters, 20/10) – understand that this pandemic has put so much stress on the health services and that much of this could not be planned for. There is a severe shortage of qualified health practitioners in Victoria, and it was not possible to get anyone from overseas or interstate to fill the gaps made by resources being used by COVID-19 patients.

Recently retired nurses and other health practitioners have been asked to rejoin their profession to fill the gaps. At the age of 66, I have rejoined as a psychiatric nurse, helping children and adolescents with their mental health. They are suffering increased problems with isolation, lack of socialisation and difficulty with online learning.

I am enjoying being part of this, but it is obvious that it is difficult to find people to fill vacancies. All health services are stretched to their limits, and opening up will increase the demand. Victorians, please keep well – and get double vaccinated.
Paul Williamson, Warrnambool

Promoting and protecting our mental wellbeing

Re “Call to bring in mental health workers to fix crisis” (The Age, 21/10). The demand for mental healthcare services has been growing for years, and has increased sharply as a consequence of COVID-19. While bolstering our workforce through international recruitment is important, it is not the only solution. The onset of many common mental health conditions can be prevented or substantially delayed through evidence-based wellbeing and prevention programs.

The problem is that Australia has always taken a reactive, “mental ill-health”-driven approach, rather than a proactive “wellbeing”-driven approach. Both are needed, and there is a growing recognition that by increasing our focus on promoting mental wellbeing and preventing mental health conditions, we can reduce the demand on our healthcare services.

COVID-19 has shown that we all have a level of mental wellbeing that can fall sharply in response to stress or trauma. We can therefore all benefit from programs that help to promote and protect our wellbeing, and support us if we experience a serious mental health challenge. It is vital that we increase the mental health promotion workforce, and not just the mental healthcare workforce.
Dr Stephen Carbone, CEO, Prevention United, North Melbourne

Our vaccination status: a very public matter

So Novak Djokovic, the greatest tennis player of the times, thinks that his vaccination status is “a private matter” and that being asked about it is an “inappropriate inquiry” (Sport, 20/10).

He is wrong. It is a very public matter. So many workers, in so many different fields, are now required to be fully vaccinated. If he feels so precious and dismissive of public safety as well as contemptuous towards spectators, he should be banned from tournaments and the international circuit. There are plenty of up-and-coming players to entertain and “wow” us. Let them have their turn. Novak has had his.
Andrew Barnes, Ringwood

THE FORUM

Very poor role models

What has happened to public discourse in our nation – “Coalition MPs hurl abuse over policy flip” (The Age, 21/10)? To hear and read the way some of our elected members of Parliament speak to, and abuse, each other is shameful. The case quoted is one of several from both major parties which have been published recently. Such harsh language sets the poorest example to others.

My criticism is not of this newspaper for publishing the comments. The Age shows up the limitations of each person as reported. Heaven help the young as they look to parliamentarians, expecting them to behave and respect one another. I hope the wider electorate takes note.
Frances Awcock, Melbourne

The skills are already here

Re “Huge migrant shortfall warning” (The Age, 21/10). Chat to any taxidriver and you will probably meet a highly educated and highly skilled migrant who cannot get a job in their field which supposedly has a skills shortage. Government red tape has created a snail-like pace for migrants seeking to redress such shortages. This impacts on recognition of overseas educational qualifications and granting of permanent working visas.

Many employers are also to blame as they are reluctant to hire skilled workers from non-English speaking countries and increase wages to attract more workers. If we cannot employ skilled migrant workers who are already in Australia, more migration will not overcome skills shortages. Help could come from government-funded traineeships and hiring more tertiary-level educators, especially in TAFEs.
Helen Tsoutsouvas, Balwyn North

Will our hospitals cope?

Just like the rest of us, migrants may have accidents and babies and they may get sick. When our hospitals already have long waiting lists because of COVID-19 and chronic underfunding, isn’t it silly to bring in more people?
Helen Pereira, Heidelberg Heights

A very personal choice

It is quite illiberal to take issue with any family over its choices about its number of children – “Reality check” (Letters, 20/10). Population size is a legitimate topic for comment but criticising the choices of an individual family smacks of pressuring it to make “acceptable” choices. Those attempts need to be called out and challenged for their illiberalism at every point.
Michael Angwin, Surrey Hills

RIP, Dr Rodney Syme

It was very sad to hear of the passing of Dr Rodney Syme. His forthright, passionate and compassionate advocacy resulted in the assisted dying laws being introduced in Victoria, meaning that hundreds of terminally ill Victorians have been able to end their pain and suffering at a time and place of their choosing. A great man.
David Parker, Geelong West

A necessary investigation

Tony Smith, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, says there is a case to be investigated over whether Christian Porter’s use of a “blind trust” to pay legal fees breached Parliament’s rules (The Age, 21/10). However, the government closed ranks around Porter and dramatically opposed a motion to refer him to the lower house’s privileges committee.
I am pleased that the committee has now decided to consider his use of a blind trust, along with the broader issue of anonymous donations sourced via crowdfunding (The Age Online, 21/10). Does this mean there is a chance of an effective integrity commission?
Jim McLeod, Sale

Blinding us to donors

Christian Porter, stop calling this a “blind trust”. It is not management of your investments at arm’s length. Instead it is a “blindfold” preventing us all from knowing the identity of those who donated money towards your legal fees.
John Boyce, Richmond

Mutually beneficial

Noel Whittaker – “The great dilemma: who will look after mum or dad?” (Money, 20/10) – there is another option for ageing parents who want to stay at home and not move into residential care or in with relatives. Try homesharing.

This is mutually beneficial arrangement where an older householder is matched with a carefully selected and assessed homesharer, and a carefully negotiated agreement is reached for the provision of support and companionship in exchange for affordable accommodation.

This is a great option for older people who feel lonely, isolated and possibly unsafe living at home; for family members who are worried about their relative living alone, and for people who are looking for affordable accommodation.

Many evaluations have demonstrated the positive personal and economic benefits of homesharing for the participants and their families. Governments also benefit as an economic analysis shows that homeshare brings significant cost savings in relation to government and agency support and residential services.
Meg Montague, Homeshare Australia and New Zealand Alliance

Our throwaway society

Now that we appear to be finally taking climate change seriously, it is time that we also pay more attention to its relationship to sustainability and caring for the environment. The throwaway society is in full swing, with the one-off use of coffee cups, containers and plastic bags multiplying at an alarming pace. We may be tempted to blame COVID-caused lockdowns, but their ongoing use is ubiquitous, even when we are not in lockdown.

Supermarkets spruik their environmental credentials while offering an increased amount of prepacked fresh food, with no incentive for shoppers to use reusable bags for loose fruit and vegetables. And do not get me started on a well-known chemist chain that appears to have myriad reasons/excuses for handing out plastic bags with gay abandonment. It is well past time to stop the greenwashing and start taking these issues seriously.
Rita Thorpe, Coburg

Beware the voters’ wrath

The Nationals have the most to lose by a lack of a plan on climate change. They have had years to be proactive in this sphere. Let Scott Morrison attend the Glasgow summit without their blessing on his contribution and let the electorate make their choice on their petulant behaviour at the ballot box. The clock is ticking.
Lyn Anderson, Surrey Hills

The master marketer

The sheer genius of Scott Morrison as a marketer is revealed again. Barnaby Joyce captures the public attention for a week or two, raising all our anxieties, then Morrison gets “net zero by 2050” through cabinet. What a hero. What a progressive. (Thank you, Barnaby Joyce, for the help with that.)
Janet Wickerson, Thornbury

High cost of running EVs

Approaching 88 years and in need of a new car, I thought of going electric as my contribution to saving the planet – it is my last chance. Then the salesman told me that I had to pay a state government tax on every kilometre I drove in an electric car. That is absurd. I will keep my old petrol-guzzling banger. You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.
Stuart Molony, Mount Martha

Every little drop counts

Many people are aware of their responsibility to use less water. I remember my childhood visits to my beloved aunt’s family home. The water tank was critical. There was a drop toilet at the bottom of the orchard, and chamber pots were carried outside and emptied into the garden.

The weekly bath consisted of a single bathful through which all the kids went, one or two at a time. Clothes washing was also weekly; soapy water was squeezed out and reused, as was the clean water sometimes. Swimming, of course, was in the nearby creek. I am ashamed and am trying to monitor my water usage today.
Belinda Pearson, Hawthorn

Our very long memories

Your “thanks” to Victoria are too little, too late, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg. Eighteen months of backstabbing and criticism during the pandemic will not be forgotten.
Belinda Burke, Hawthorn

The elites of racing world

The Victoria Racing Club says it will allocate only 500 tickets to the general public for Melbourne Cup day, with 7000 going to members and the rest to corporate sponsors and owners of competing horses (Sport, 21/10). This clearly shows it is an illusion that we live in an egalitarian society.
Glenise Michaelson, Montmorency

Slowly killing our city

A few dramatic stone remnants of the magnificent 1940s Colonial Mutual Life Building lie scattered near the Exhibition Buildings in the Carlton Gardens. A photograph of the building itself emphasises what a sad loss it is. The destruction of Marvellous Melbourne continues.

Last Saturday’s Age carried a story about a new development that will not only dominate the Queen Victoria Market, it will partially destroy Blender Lane. As Adrian Doyle, director of The Blender Studios, pointed out, the plan is “typical of the disregard by developers for what made Melbourne special”. In the fullness of time, will there be a photograph of Blender Lane as it is now displayed on the wall of the tower block that replaces it?
Mary Clark, Fitzroy

Importance of an organ

I have a glossy, 30-page booklet published in 1983 by the Arts Centre management, singing the praises of the Hamer Hall organ. In it, they state, “A concert hall without an organ is like a circus without an elephant”. It is a pity they have changed their tune.
Michael Challinger, Nunawading

An unforgettable word

Elizabeth McGrath (21/10), the nine-letter Target word on Tuesday, “dromedary”, jumped out at me straight away. Once I got it, I could not “unsee” it.
Maria Clemens, Williamstown

AND ANOTHER THING

Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding

Climate change

The dinosaurs in Canberra believe emissions reduction is a race – but regrettably, a race to the bottom, which we’ve won.
Ron Burnstein, Heidelberg

The Nationals are holding the nation, and its forward thinking electorates, hostage.
Loucille McGinley, Brighton East

Scott, after the Glasgow talk fest, instead of visiting graveyards, get Julian Assange out of Belmarsh Prison and bring him home.
Peter Neilson, Heathcote

The National Party’s right-wing should change its name to the Mining Party so it’s clear what it stands for.
Fiona Ross, Bendigo

Seventy per cent: a great number for double vaccination and a 2030 emissions target.
Jenny Smithers, Ashburton

Politics

The Morrison government’s mantra: What you don’t know won’t hurt us.
Anne Rutland, Brunswick West

IBAC’s inquiry will be as ineffective as the Coate inquiry if it doesn’t examine branch stacking by all ALP factions in Victoria.
Martin Newington, Aspendale

Albo, it’s time for the shirtfront.
Rob Ward, Lake Tyers Beach

Mix pressure cooker levels of fear with equal measures of compliance and subservience. Bingo, you’re free.
Charles Boyd, Glen Iris

Furthermore

At 95, the Queen shouldn’t be drinking a martini every day. She should be drinking two or three.
Lindsay Zoch, Mildura

Cryptic crossword 1513: Since when was “whippersnapper” spelt with two As and one P? It put the whole thing “awry”.
David Hall, Montmorency

Whatever you do, don’t Google “whippersnaaper”. I did and got more than an eyeful.
John Fife, Box Hill South

Re “dromedary” (Target, 19/10). How does your reader (21/10) take her coffee, one hump or two?
Helen Hilton, Armadale

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