Melbourne Emergency Nurse, Mother of Three Dies of C0VID-19
By Aisha Dow, Melissa Cunningham and Timna Jacks
An emergency department nurse and mother of three has died from COVID-19 in Melbourne, in what the nurses union believe is the first COVID-19 fatality of a Victorian hospital worker.
Gillian “Jill” Dempsey, who worked the night shift at Angliss Hospital in Upper Ferntree Gully, died at Box Hill Hospital’s intensive care unit on Sunday afternoon.
A WorkSafe spokesman said on Tuesday evening that the health and safety regulator was “making inquiries” regarding the death.
Respected emergency department nurse Jill Dempsey is being mourned by her family, friends and colleagues
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Victorian secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said it was the union’s understanding that Ms Dempsey contracted the virus at work and she welcomed a WorkSafe review into the circumstances surrounding her infection and death.
Ms Fitzpatrick said the nursing community and Ms Dempsey’s colleagues were devastated by her death.
“It has hit people very hard, and it’s been very, very difficult. It’s still very raw. She was seen to be very much loved by her colleagues, very experienced and it’s been very hard to take.”
Under Victorian regulations, it is mandatory that nurses must have received two doses of vaccine to work in hospitals.
About 3000 Victorian nurses, doctors and other health staff and support staff have caught COVID-19 at work during the pandemic, but healthcare worker deaths have been rare.
A spokesman for Eastern Health, which runs Angliss Hospital, confirmed the death was being reviewed as part of a standard process.
In an earlier statement the health service described the “care, warmth and compassion” that Ms Dempsey had demonstrated every day.
“An incredibly caring wife and mother, Jill is survived by husband Michael and their three children.”
The emergency department nurse had worked for Eastern Health for almost 15 years.
“Her loss will reverberate around the tight-knit team at the Angliss Hospital and our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues at this time,” the Eastern Health statement said.
Australian Medical Association president Roderick McRae said Ms Dempsey’s death was a tragic loss and a reminder of the risks faced by those working in healthcare during the pandemic.
“This highlights the danger that every healthcare worker faces … this is front-line emergency department nursing staff and allied health and medical staff … putting themselves on the line and endangering their own lives in order to support other people,” he said.
Dr McRae said if Ms Dempsey caught the virus while at work, he would expect a thorough review into the cause and circumstances of her death, with the findings to be publicly released.
A website has been set up to raise money for the funeral and other expenses, with more than $7000 raised by early Tuesday evening.
“An angel has fallen from the front line,” the organiser wrote.
“Jill was a much-loved member of the team and this pandemic has taken its toll on everyone, but none more so than our beloved Jilly and her family.”
“We acknowledge their bravery and courage. This is a reminder of how vulnerable they are.
“Nurses and midwives don’t want to be heroes, they want to go home to their families and loved ones at the end of a shift.”
Further details about Ms Dempsey’s illness and the circumstances of her death remain unknown.