Media Release 10 November 2022

As the Victorian health system faces uncertainty ahead of the next COVID-19 wave that has
begun, a joint Swinburne University and RMIT University research team, in conjunction with
the Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association (VAHPA), have released their findings
from the Survey on Workplace Climate and Well-being of Victorian Allied Health
Professionals. Surveyed over 4 weeks in August-September 2022 coming off the peak of the
Omicron B5 wave, this report paints a picture of the stress that Allied Health Professionals
are under and compares the finding to a survey held during the Delta wave in August-
September 2021.

The survey report from over 900 Allied Health Professionals across public and private
hospitals, community health, aged care, disability and private practices, paints a devastating
picture of burnout, under-resourcing and a workforce verging on collapse. We are facing a
critical workforce shortage in the future if we do not address the serious issues identified in
the report.

Using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10), researchers found that the mental
health of Allied Health Professionals had deteriorated over the course of 2022 but more
alarmingly, one-quarter (25%) of Allied Health Professionals may be experiencing moderate
to severe levels of distress consistent with severe depression and/or anxiety disorder.
Allied Health Professionals include Radiographers, Physiotherapists, Occupational
Therapists, Sonographers, Social Workers, Speech Pathologist, Podiatrists and Radiation
Therapists and represent the critical health workforce that is the engine-room of the health
system, yet they are suffering serious moral injury because of workload pressures
exacerbated by COVID-19.

After nearly 3 years of the pandemic and with Public Health mitigations wound back
completely, Victoria’s hospitals are under increasing and unrelenting pressure. Allied Health
Professionals are suffering psychological distress and moral injury that has serious
implications for the individuals but also for maintaining health services.
The survey looks at psychological safety in the workplace, bullying and job satisfaction.
Survey data and commentary from survey respondents indicates dangerous levels of
emotional exhaustion and burnout with unsustainable workloads. There are serious safety
implications for the workers and their patients. We cannot allow the psychological damage
that is being inflicted on Allied Health Professionals to continue any longer.The report states:
In the context of burnout, the study found a majority of respondents found work
exhausting, with a significant proportion (89%), indicating they were emotionally
exhausted. Of this, over half (58%) often felt burnout (i.e., often or always) due to
their work. These are concerning findings regarding the general long-term health and
wellbeing of the workforce.

Quotes attributable to Allied Health Professional respondents:

“Staff mental health at (XXXX) Health is horrifyingly bad and
management have done nothing to help. I am concerned that
someone will take their life from the pressure that is being put on
them. The doctors bully staff. Majority of us want out!”

“Allied health is put last and consistently underfunded and undervalued. It’s making me think
of leaving a profession I love. There is no respect from senior management…..The problem
gets worse and worse and I worry how we will attract and retain good staff in the public
sector with the ongoing culture of undervaluing, overworking with no sign of reprieve…”

“I feel people who have worked in health for a long time thought it would be a hump
(pandemic) we would get over. We are not getting over the hump. It’s not going back to
normal. We are all burnt out and over it. Reduced staff. More pressure to get patients out.
There is…no management contact…I am leaving. It’s sad as I never thought I would leave.”
“We are all exhausted and at breaking point.”

“There is just too much for us all to do.”

Quotes attributable to VAHPA Executive Officer, Andrew Hewat:

“This report highlights the perilous situation that allied health is currently facing. The
responses indicate a workforce who are burnt out and suffering moral injury as a
consequence of simply doing their job.”

“Enough is enough, we can’t continue to keep heaping the burden of a floundering health
system onto healthcare workers. Allied health professionals have played a critical role in the
Covid response but are not seeing the support or resources to keep going.”

“These are highly educated, highly experienced professionals that can’t simply be replaced.
We are asking far too much of them and we must urgently address the workload pressures
exacerbated by the unmitigated spread of COVID-19.”

“Allied health professionals care for their patients and are constantly being squeezed to
achieve more with less. They are being forced to choose between patient safety and
meeting demands. If forced to compromise on patient safety, many will simply walk away
from the profession.”

“We are seeing unrealistic, unsustainable workloads that are forcing people to leave and the
cascading effect is more allied health professionals burn out or get sick, further
compounding the problem. It takes 4-6 years for an allied health professional to qualify but
very little time to crush them through overwork and a lack of respect.”

“Allied health professionals are the essential but forgotten health workforce. From imaging,
diagnostics, treating cancer, providing rehabilitation, counselling, home care, helping people
breathe, talk, swallow, walk and just function again, saving limbs, educating, finding housing,
and caring for and treating our community. Our health system revolves around allied health
professionals, yet most people know very little about us until they need our care. Without us,
the whole system collapses.”

Quote to be attributable to Swinburne researcher Professor Peter Holland:

“The report reveals some concerning findings regarding the general long-term health and
wellbeing of the workforce.”

“This is a highly skilled and educated workforce. While short-term job attrition may low, it is
important to note that many professionals are considering leaving the profession in the long
term. This loss of knowledge and human capital will be difficult to replace.”

Findings from the Survey on Workplace Climate and Well-being of the Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association: Click here for Part 1 Part 2

Media Release