The Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association (VAHPA) condemns the decision made by Victorian Government to end Special Paid Leave for healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19. VAHPA also condemns the decision to reduce the required isolation period for healthcare workers from seven to five days.

The changes came into force on 1 October 2023, at a time when Victoria has seen a steady rise in COVID hospitalisations over the last 6 weeks, indicating the next wave has already begun.

VAHPA calls on the Victorian Government to maintain best practice infection control measures in the ongoing fight against COVID-19 within healthcare facilities.

“The ability to isolate when infectious is the foundational principle of infection control. To ensure healthcare workers can stay home while infectious, they need the security of paid Covid leave,” declared VAHPA Executive Officer, Andrew Hewat.

The research shows that most people with COVID-19 are still infectious well beyond 5 days. A significant number are still likely to be infectious after day 7. Yet, in a push to normalise COVID-19, the Victorian government is reducing the required isolation period.

“If this is to get more healthcare workers back to work, it is counterintuitive and dangerous,” said Hewat. “With the relaxing of mask wearing in many healthcare settings, bringing staff back too soon when they are quite possibly still infectious will simply lead to more staff getting sick.”

Many healthcare workers have run their personal sick leave balances down during the pandemic as they have suffered the constant cycle of viruses circulating or had to care for sick family for the same reasons.

Previously, healthcare workers received Special Paid Leave when they tested positive for Covid. Ending the Paid Special Leave for COVID will mean they are now forced to use their personal leave each time they catch COVID.

While the government did concede to retain a safety net support payment if Healthcare workers catch Covid and have run out of personal leave, this could mean they have no sick leave left to cover any other period of illness.

“Healthcare workers see this as a betrayal by the government after bearing the brunt of the pandemic and keeping the public safe through the crisis of the last 3 and half years,” Hewat exclaimed.