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'To those saying Australia should just "open up": I'm asking you to please think of the nurses.'

For the 13.5 million Australians currently in lockdown 16 months into a pandemic, it's easy to grumble and complain and focus on the injustices while case numbers remain relatively low; losses to the economy, to our social lives, to small business.

But as Victorian nurse Merowyn Olaver reminds us, without lockdowns, our hospitals would very quickly fill up and they simply wouldn't have enough room for us all. 

"There is a lot of talk about the incredible stress on small businesses at the moment, particularly sole traders and the hospitality industry. I have nothing but empathy for them - you don’t deserve the financial losses and DO deserve the support of the Federal Government. That aside though, again, there is a huge focus on these groups. I’m asking you now, to perhaps think of the nurses, for a moment," the 40-year-old wrote on Instagram.

"There are calls to have the virus 'run it’s course' and open up, [that] 'lockdown isn’t viable'. Lockdown is not the best choice, but at the moment, coupled with vaccinations - it is our only choice. The Federal Government hasn’t pushed for rapid testing, vaccinations haven’t been rolled out quickly the past 12 months and aren’t available to all. Lockdown is our first and really only defence (until more are vaccinated), at this stage. Mental health is a huge issue now, resources are increasingly stretched, imagine coupling that with daily death tolls in the hundreds? These services can’t cope now," she continued.

As Merowyn explained to Mamamia, she understands the pain of small business owners in particular right now - some of the hardest hit by lengthy lockdowns.

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"I had a small business last year making cakes but had to close due to COVID-19. The Government re-registered nurses whose registration hadn't lapsed for five plus years. So I was luckily able to pivot back into my nursing role," she said.

Merowyn's two-year old business had been running along quite nicely, when the pandemic saw her customers evaporate overnight. 

"It was terrifying. I'd be up at night feeling sick with anxiety knowing this was a long-term issue and trying to work out what to do next."

Thankfully, Merowyn had a backup, a luxury she knows not everyone has. She has slipped right back into her community of nursing "brothers and sisters," a place she called home for a decade before giving entrepreneurship a go. 

"My husband and I were talking the other night, if I still had my business and he was [still] a chef I’m not sure what our lives would look like. They would be very different and life would feel very uncertain. My heart is broken for the small businesses, I have friends who have rent being increased while they can’t open. None of that is fair, there is a responsibility for the government to support the lockdowns, financially, for those in need," she told Mamamia.

But it's the regional hospitals Merowyn is most concerned about if this Delta variant continues to spread at such a rate.

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"We [in Melbourne] are prepared to the best of our capabilities. The concern is for regional hospitals, who don’t have the equipment, staff or isolation rooms. When considering the ICU beds, we need to remember those beds can be at capacity with trauma and medical patients on a normal day, let alone if COVID was to 'run its course'," she shared.

As Merowyn explains, not all nurses are educated to work in ICU where sick COVID patients end up. Nursing branches off into a multitude of specialties like orthopaedics, neurology, paediatric ICU and NICU. She herself specialises in the medical/oncology ward.

Sidenote: A quick thankyou to masks. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

"There are not enough nurses to look after your loved ones, or the loved ones of people you love, when hundreds become unwell," she said. "We can’t let COVID run wild because we don’t have the capacity to care for the number of sick people that WILL arise. 

"Victoria has created fresh ICU beds but even then, there wouldn’t be enough if we became like America, India, Indonesia or [the] EU. Regardless of COVID, we need ICU beds for regular critical patients too. Regional centres are NOT equipped."

As the rise of anti-vax and anti-lockdown rhetoric infiltrates our communities, Merowyn says she feels sympathy for them.

"I think we need to listen to their grievances. They aren’t necessarily bad people. I think a lot of their rhetoric comes from fear. It’s ok to be scared, it’s ok to question things but I think they should be open to discussion too. So much of that school of thought seems to think it’s an 'us verses them' scenario, when it should really be 'us verses COVID'," she told Mamamia.

Right now the nurses and medical staff in our hospitals are getting on with their jobs with enough resources to cope. We've had five fatalities - all in NSW - and there are dozens, not hundreds in ICU across the country.

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But as Merowyn shares, they're scared for their colleagues overseas and they do not want that to become their reality.

"We are begging you, please think of us. Please think of us when you say 'open up', because we will be the ones picking up the pieces. WE will be the ones putting our lives at risk with stretched resources. You can thank us all you want, but what you are doing now is what we are most grateful for," she said.

Feature image: Instagram/@nurse.merowyn.

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