COVID-19 response leaving public servants tired, NSW Health minister says

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday August 27, 2020

Brad Hazzard is considering first doses for health workers be administered by the end of September, and all second doses by November 30.
Brad Hazzard is considering first doses for health workers be administered by the end of September, and all second doses by November 30. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

The pressure of decision-making during the coronavirus pandemic is leaving public servants exhausted, according to New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

Speaking to The Canberra Times about border restrictions, Hazzard noted NSW Health staff have been working seven days a week to process border exemption applications.

“It’s a challenge because many of those are very genuine and some of them are not, and the challenge is, we’ve recently seen some evidence in the media of what people will do to cross borders and what they’ll say when they’re wanting to cross a border,” he said.

“The staff who are making decisions on these applications are I think quite concerned, extremely concerned, emotionally drained having to make decisions day after day that may actually not be the right decision and which could lead to the reintroduction of more of the virus into the ACT or NSW.”

He has previously defended his department after it faced criticism over its handling of the Ruby Princess, which has been linked to hundreds of COVID-19 cases and 28 deaths.

“I find it disappointing, in the strongest way possible, that there can be any suggestion that those people are not doing their best,” he said back in April.

Read more: Good faith in NSW public servants ‘not dented’ by Ruby Princess findings, Bret Walker says

The special commissioner leading the inquiry into the Ruby Princess debacle has since found that while the Health department made a number of mistakes in their handling of the cruise ship, the mistakes “should not be taken as damning condemnation of the individual public servants involved”.

Hazzard admitted that the high stakes of decision-making during COVID-19 have weighed on his mind, as well as the minds of leaders in other jurisdictions.

“I know that same pressure, agony has impacted on every single leadership decision in every state and territory right across the country,” he said.

“I regularly deal with Labor and Liberal health ministers across the country and they have all been very, very committed to making the correct decisions – but of course you always wonder, is it the correct decision in a one-in-100-year pandemic?”

Read more: Service NSW worked overnight to deliver tech solution for border crossing permits


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