Concerns raised about what "living with COVID" means for our overstretched health services are well founded.
Health workers around the country, indeed around the world, have been smashed by this virus for the past 18 months. While the rest of us may have lamented the loss of our freedoms and the challenges we have faced, one has only had to stop and think for a moment about what life must be like on the frontline as a health worker to gain back a little perspective.
Thankfully, in Australia, we have seen nothing like the carnage that has raged in some countries. And our region has thus far been spared a mass outbreak, though we aren't out of the woods yet.
We know that when we open up with vaccination rates at 80 per cent, we will see cases. The problem with that is our regional health services are already operating in an environment where they are under-resourced and over-worked. What does an outbreak look like for those regional health services? It must be a scary thought.
As Northeast Health Wangaratta acting chief executive Robyn Gillis says, health workers are already "tired".
They are tired because they are already chronically overworked, and permanently working beyond their capacity to serve their communities.
Our regional health services aren't just playing catch-up in trying to get the investment they need to maintain their services. They are so far behind some other health services in that regard that they aren't even in the same game, so to speak.
That has to change. Our health workers deserve to be treated better, and to be offered the support and investment they need to continue to work and work bloody hard through a pandemic that for them, is likely to get harder.
Lord knows we all want our lives back, we want to be "open for business", we want our freedom. But we also want to know that there is a plan to help those tasked with looking after us and our loved ones, should we find ourselves in their care. They deserve better and they have deserved better for a long time.
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