More than 10 per cent of Queensland Health workers are unvaccinated against COVID-19 ahead of an imminent deadline mandating a first dose, according to figures from the state health department.
- Healthcare staff have a one month deadline until they must be fully vaccinated
- Those without an exemption who don’t get vaccinated will not be able to work
- The Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union says healthcare workers have an obligation to get vaccinated
Under a Queensland Health employment directive, any clinical or non-clinical staff member who works in or attends locations where patients are cared for is required to have one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by September 30 and a second dose by October 31.
According to state government figures, more than 89 per cent of staff had received one dose of vaccine as of September 20, while 82 per cent had received both doses.
“We’re working through it with all our health workers,” Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said.
“We know this is critical, we require our health workers to get vaccinated for a range of immunisations and the flu, so this is not uncommon.”
“This is about keeping them safe, their work colleagues safe, every patient and visitor that walks into their hospital and their own family members.”
Queensland Health said vaccination was the best defence to protect employees, patients and the broader community.
“We have been supporting and encouraging employee vaccination since the start of the rollout,” the spokesperson said.
“All employees who are required to be vaccinated are a priority group for bookings and walk-ins at state-run sites.
“For the small percentage of staff who do not wish to receive the vaccine, our approach is to find out why staff may decline to be vaccinated and explore whether there is additional information or support that can be provided to enable them to be vaccinated.”
Unvaccinated staff without exemptions to lose jobs
Queensland Health said following this process, they will “work with these staff” to explore alternative options.
It said alternative options will be determined based on a consideration of the employee’s circumstances and may include deployment or other adjustments.
Staff members can apply for an exemption and continue to work until the exemption has been assessed, but may need to take additional precautions such as working remotely, wearing PPE and being tested.
Exemptions will be based on exceptional circumstances, such as recognised medical conditions.
Unvaccinated employees who are not granted an exemption after the specified dates will not be able to work and can access their leave entitlements.
A similar mandate in New South Wales has led to some staff resigning or taking extended leave.
Seven Queensland Police Service employees, including five officers, are currently seeking a court order to invalidate a similar vaccination direction from the Queensland Police Commissioner.
‘We have obligations to each other’
The Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU) continued to call for Queensland Health staff, and other eligible Queenslanders, to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“Now is the time for Queenslanders, including healthcare staff, to do everything in their power to take control during COVID-19,” QNMU secretary Beth Mohle said.
“Healthcare staff need to vaccinate in order to protect themselves and those in their care.
“We cannot be distracted by other agendas – vaccination is the key to overcoming this pandemic.”
The QNMU said it recognised that individuals have the right to make personal choices about immunisation, but there may be professional and industrial consequences for exercising that choice.