Riverina healthcare worker Amit Gupta has claimed the new policy of allowing some COVID-19 close contact health workers back on shift will put staff and patients at risk.
NSW Health announced a new policy on New Year's Eve that will create exemptions for healthcare workers who have been close contacts with COVID-19 cases to return to work in the public and private systems if they do not have symptoms.
"What do they think nurses are? Are they not humans? We should be treated like any other citizen," Mr Gupta, who is president of the Wagga branch of NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, said.
"If they are critically short in the workforce, why can't they recruit more people? We have been crying out for so long for more nurses.
"When they say healthcare workers who are close contacts can come into work, this is overwhelming for nurses; they are burnt out to tell the truth."
Mr Gupta said nurses had no more protection than anybody else when not at work.
"Nurses are part of the community so why do we have to work as close contacts when others in the community are ordered to stay at home?" he said.
"I don't know why the government can come up with this policy but when it comes to any incentives or pay rise, they say they don't have the budget for that."
NSW Health said the policy will be invoked in "exceptional circumstances" to allow staff to perform key duties rather than remain in self-isolation.
"If these workers develop any symptoms of COVID-19 they must immediately seek a PCR test and not attend the workplace until a negative result is received," a NSW Health statement said.
"With increasing case numbers and large numbers of close contacts in self-isolation, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard signed an exemption to the Public Health Order to minimise potential impacts on health services across the state.
"The exemption allows these close contacts to leave self-isolation to attend their workplace, provided they have been identified by their employer as critical to the service and cannot work from home."
Murrumbidgee Local Health District was asked to comment on whether it anticipated having to make use of the close contact exemptions for healthcare workers and whether it was developing a risk management plan for workers who might make use of the exemptions.
The MLHD did not respond to those questions prior to publication.
Mr Gupta said there should be more of a back-up plan for a health workforce that was "fatigued and burnt out" while the number of COVID-19 cases kept growing.
"[Omicron] is all over the state and the MLHD cannot avoid it," he said.
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