Support for preventing needlestick injuries

I am delighted to speak on this motion. I suggest to the member for Moore that this will be his last private member’s motion in this place and I want to add my comments to those who have gone before me on the distinguished nature of his time here.

Much has been said about you, member for Moore. We all certainly enjoyed your valedictory speech, but nothing exemplifies the qualities you have as a person, as a compassionate man who took his oath as a doctor particularly seriously and to heart, more than this motion before the House.

I commend you for that. Even at this time, when you are considering your retirement from this place, it is indicative of you as a person that you are thinking of others before yourself.

The Hippocratic oath you took is very much a part of the motion that you have before the House. Like other members I will miss you greatly in this place, not just for the nature of your compassion and your caring but also for your significant intellect, which this whole parliament and, I suggest, the Australian people, will miss greatly.

I hope that when you see an issue in this place that needs addressing, like the issues in this motion, you will still seek to pass it on to members so that this caring can continue.

I imagine I am repeating some things that have gone before, but this is a really important issue for healthcare workers.

I know all of the statistics have been repeated already: 18,000 healthcare employees suffer injuries each year. But I want to go to the important issue, which I know the member for Moore would feel—the stress around what comes next for a healthcare worker who receives this type of injury.

What do they go through? I know this would exercise the member for Moore’s mind. I had a look at the process on a US website. They were encouraging their injured people firstly, No. 1, to seek immediate medical help to assess the risk of developing infection. Number 2 was to determine whether the patient on whom the needle was used has HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection.

The third thing was to wait for the results of their blood tests and for information on the patient—wait and worry, I would suggest, member for Moore—then to determine whether they will need medication to prevent an infection. Following that exposure, follow-up may include drugs with significant side effects on the healthcare worker.

The website says:

Blood tests and further evaluation may be needed for six months to a year following the injury.

It also says:

As you wait for more information, the anxiety of the unknown can be a serious distraction for you and is stressful for your family.

These are the very real personal impacts of this injury which healthcare workers and their families face. Knowing the member for Moore as I do, I know that these would very much be the reasons why the member for Moore feels we need to, and should, do better.

At least one in nine nurses and their families go through this every year. When you look at the list of things they have to go through, we do need to do better. According to research on this US site regarding when injuries occur:

For example, 40 percent of injuries occur during use, another 40 percent occur after use and before disposal …

When you look at the process, the need for preventive measures is critical. The member for Moore has alluded to those as well.

Measures to particularly prevent and reduce those injuries in both of those 40 per cent instances are very critical, using safety engineered medical devices.

In completing my comments, I do not have enough words to actually record the value of the member for Moore’s contribution in this place over an extended period and I can only say the parliament and the people of Australia will be worse off with him leaving this place.