Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (11:14): My question is for the Minister for Workplace Safety. The recent outbreak at Royal Melbourne Hospital led to hundreds of staff being furloughed for two weeks. The system at Royal Melbourne that they had to manage the communications with the staff just failed. Workers were left confused, fearful and anxious.
I have spoken to the hospital about this. They kind of recognise this and they are working on it, but much of the workforce found out about the furloughing through text messages and through text messages of text messages. It was a text messages tree for some of them, and that was particularly the case for the allied health workers. This certainly did not help with their burnout, and given that 36 per cent of mental injury WorkCover claims come from the public service, how does the minister plan to manage the extreme levels of burnout in the allied health workforce?
Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (11:15): I thank Ms Patten for her question. This is a really important issue for many of our frontline workers throughout this pandemic. Whilst the Minister for Health is responsible for the pandemic response and the health team, not WorkSafe, actually responds to outbreaks, I understand that the mental health and wellbeing of our frontline health workers is extremely important. Whilst it is not in my portfolio responsibilities, I do know that Minister Foley has previously released a healthcare worker wellbeing package of supports, and they have been working tirelessly to care for the Victorian community during the coronavirus pandemic.
Unfortunately with the delta variant we are anticipating that case numbers will rise, and of course managing hospital settings and furloughing of staff will be something that I am sure the health team will be working very hard on. Of course WorkSafe continues to work hard in the area of prevention of mental injuries. There is an enormous amount of work going on in that regard.
The mental health royal commission has made some specific recommendations to the government about how WorkSafe might be able to play their part. Considering that Victorian workers spend a significant period of their lives at work, this is something that we need to be really mindful of and make sure that WorkSafe’s policies and employers are putting in place prevention measures.
I recently announced that we would be developing psychosocial regulations to give employers guidance on how they can prevent mental injury. Of course in the context of a pandemic these issues are only amplified, and I am very happy to see whether or not there is some additional information that I can seek from the health minister that might be useful to you, Ms Patten.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (11:18): Thank you, Minister, and I would take up that offer, if you could seek more information, especially given that in the recent survey 30 per cent of allied health members are considering leaving because of stress and burnout. But, by way of supplementary, what I am interested in is that we can probably expect that WorkCover claims are going to increase.
Given that 36 per cent of mental injury WorkCover claims are coming from the public service, we can anticipate that as a result of this pandemic and as a result of this we will see an increase. Has WorkCover been considering how they are going to deal with probably much larger numbers of people seeking claims for mental injury?
Ms STITT (Western Metropolitan—Minister for Workplace Safety, Minister for Early Childhood) (11:19): There is no question that we know that mental injury claims are on the increase. As a society they are on the increase, and we anticipate that mental injury claims will make up about 30 per cent of all workers compensation claims by 2030. That is an enormous challenge that I know WorkSafe are very focused on addressing.
I have already indicated that there will be some significant work going on in response to the mental health royal commission. In the health sector during the COVID pandemic we have a fast-track system for any workers compensation claims to be dealt with very quickly, but I also would point to some of the provisional payments reforms that the government has recently introduced so that any Victorian suffering a mental health injury at work can receive payments—
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Question without notice 9/9/21