Media release: Managing the health, safety and wellbeing of nurses and junior doctors in high demand hospital environments

The Auditor-General for New South Wales, Margaret Crawford, released a report today examining NSW Health’s management of health and safety risks to nurses and junior doctors in high demand hospital wards over the past five years, including during the first six months of the 2020 COVID-19 health emergency.

The Auditor-General found that while NSW Health effectively managed most incidents and risks to the physical health and safety of hospital staff during ‘business as usual’ activities, systems and resources are not fully effective to manage staff psychological and wellbeing risks, particularly for nurses.

The Auditor-General found that NSW Health was effective in managing most COVID-19 health and safety risks to hospital staff. Overall effectiveness could have been improved had pandemic preparedness training been delivered across all Local Health Districts. Additionally, state-wide communication systems could have been improved to provide hospital clinicians with access to a ‘single source of truth’ with the latest advice from NSW Health authorities.

NSW Health’s planning and preparation for the supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was partially effective. At various times, some PPE items could not be sourced from established suppliers. Face masks, goggles and protective gowns were substituted with products that differed in shape, size and fitting from usual items, and in some hospitals, substituted masks were used without being locally fit tested by hospital staff.

The Auditor-General made seven recommendations aimed at enhancing hospital health and safety risk reporting practices, along with a recommendation that NSW Health conduct a post pandemic 'lessons learned' review and make policy and operational recommendations for future pandemic responses.

Further information

Please contact Ian Goodwin, Deputy Auditor-General on 9275 7347 or email