No end in sight for COVID testers


By Sophie Chirgwin 

A former Chief Health Officer has spoken out about Queensland’s COVID-19 crisis, saying he fears for the mental health of pathology workers on the front line if the pandemic continues.

COVID-19 testers feel like there is no end in sight. US tester conducts testing on marines.

COVID-19 testers feel like there is no end in sight. Pic: US. Credit: Flicker CC PDM 1.0

Public Health Expert and former CHO, Professor Gerry FitzGerald said he has concerns for pathology workers who are doing hard work and are often getting ‘very little recognition’.

“We’re flogging them… these people I think have been forgotten a bit,” he said.

“We are saying to these people, look you’ve been working hard for six months, now we want you to keep doing that for another year or two, and I can’t imagine the impact that would have on them.”

Prof FitzGerald said not only are COVID-19 testers physically exhausted, but they are doing tireless work with no opportunity to celebrate as they must remain completely alert to control the spread.

“If we get this under control then we still need to go back into a protection phase, and we still need them remaining absolutely alert, testing anybody with symptoms and certainly watching very closely anyone coming in from overseas,” he said.

Some COVID testers have shared accounts of patients taking their frustration out on them, which Prof FitzGerald said “would take a toll”.

COVID-19 testers are exhausted with no end in sight, Pic: Swabs used on marines in the US.

COVID-19 testers are exhausted with no end in sight, Pic: Swabs used on marines in the US.

“You can imagine them getting a bit short with people who are rude like that, it is a toll and I think part of that is the reason there is a relatively high burnout rate in health workers generally,” he said.

QUT News spoke with a COVID tester – who wished to keep her identity private – who said she and her colleagues are feeling as if there is no end in sight to their huge task.

“I feel like as it goes on people are more frustrated, maybe frustrated because they can’t see an end in sight, and they are feeling anxious and it causes everyone’s tolerance to be less,” she said.

“Everyone’s tired… we’ve worked really hard and tried to step up because of the amount of extra patients we have coming in.”

With Queensland preparing to further relax border restrictions, COVID testers remain on the front line of protecting the state from the virus.

Prof FitzGerald said while the burnout rate is high, testing is crucial during this period.

“Everyone wants to loosen these borders up and I understand that, but it means we have to remain ever alert and that means we have to keep our testing regimes at the maximum,” he said.