The daily impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has receded into a kind of background noise for most Canberrans, which occasionally intrudes into the lives of individuals and families in the form of a week's long period of quarantine.
While daily case numbers and severe restriction announcements no longer punctuate life in the capital in the way they did in spring, the health system is still feeling incredible strain.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith this week said the system was continually exhausting its pool of casual staff.
Between 150 and 160 healthcare workers have been in quarantine at any one time over the past few months; there were 168 staff in quarantine on Friday.
Living with COVID, as the community has been instructed to do now most people are well-protected by vaccinations, comes at a cost.
The impact of the coronavirus has not lessened just because the virus has receded from public view in many parts of the community.
Just ask a nurse in Canberra whether the pandemic is over. It should not come as a surprise some are beginning to discuss among their ranks the possibility of a strike.
The branch secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation ACT, Matthew Daniel, this week said health workers had been pushed to their limits through rolling staff shortages.
"Our nurses and midwives are asking us when they can strike, when they can go out," Mr Daniel said.
"They are sick of the understaffing, which has occurred way before COVID, and they need the government to take action to relieve the pressure."
It is no wonder, then, nurses were disheartened to receive an email from an executive at Canberra Health Services this week, which implied they might consider pilfering medicine for a "big night out" or a "headache".
The executive has apologised - and rightly so - but it reveals a disconnect between frontline staff and management as the system faces the ongoing test of a pandemic.
Fixing workforce shortages is not always as easy as throwing money at the problem. Cultural shifts are important, too.
The ACT government needs to listen carefully to its healthcare workers, and commit to big improvements. It would be better to aim higher and fall short than meet unambitious, tokenistic short-term targets.
The pandemic has fostered a renewed appreciation of the importance of the health system and the people who work tirelessly to run it.
In the end, this virus has shown, it really is a matter of life and death.
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