2 November 2021

Almost 50 ACT healthcare workers who refused a vaccine will need to be redeployed

| Lottie Twyford
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Nurse preparing COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine

Almost 50 healthcare workers have been redeployed after refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Forty-seven frontline healthcare workers across the ACT have indicated they will not receive a COVID-19 vaccine and, therefore, are not in compliance with the mandate currently in place.

Canberra Health Services interim CEO Dave Peffer told a select committee into the COVID-19 response yesterday afternoon that 23 of these workers have already been redeployed into non-patient-facing roles.

Speaking at a press briefing this afternoon (2 November), Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Vanessa Johnston said she wasn’t overly concerned about “47 out of several thousands of healthcare workers” refusing the vaccine.

She also said some of these people may only have been granted short-term exemptions, and these may need to be reviewed in six months or so.

For now, the ACT Government has committed to redeploy these workers; however, Dr Johnston said she imagined the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers would eventually be mandated under Work Health and Safety obligations, “for at least certain staff members in some settings”, as other vaccines already are.

As of last Friday, CHS was waiting to confirm the vaccination status of 327 people, but this was quickly whittled down to 60 by Monday.

Under the mandate, healthcare workers were required to provide evidence of the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Friday, 29 October, and a second dose by Wednesday, 1 December.

Anybody who enters a hospital, a Canberra Health Services facility, hospice or is a patient transport worker is covered by the mandate.

Mr Peffer acknowledged some grey areas, but these are being worked through on an individual basis.

READ ALSO Two school COVID-19 exposures put up to 140 people in quarantine

ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said despite high vaccination coverage of healthcare workers (more than 95 per cent are vaccinated), the impact of the introduction of a COVID case to healthcare settings could be “significant” and so a mandate was deemed necessary.

“We’re also aware that we have some very sick people, and they deserve and expect to be safe when they come into hospital,” Dr Coleman told the committee.

Mr Peffer added Canberra Health Services had an obligation to patients to ensure their safety, and a vaccine mandate had been one way to ensure this.

Dr Coleman said while the ACT had not gone down the same path as other jurisdictions with a widespread vaccine mandate, there are some settings in which the implications of having one or two people unvaccinated are significant.

One of the significant implications for healthcare settings, she explained, was the possibility of a workforce shortage if a positive case was identified.

Mr Peffer said the impacts of a reduced workforce attempting to carry a full load if several people needed to quarantine could negatively impact people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

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The ACT Government has mandated vaccines for disability support workers and teachers who work with children under 12.

The Chief Health Officer said no further industry mandates were being considered at this time.

At a budget estimates hearing two weeks ago, Dr Coleman said the current vaccine mandates are only valid until the public health emergency is stood down.

This comes to an end in mid-November but is expected to be extended by another three months, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said yesterday.

Today she said extending it is an “important step … in ensuring measures like isolation and quarantine continue to have effect” and noted the virus will continue to spread through the population despite the Territory’s world-leading vaccination rates.

Ms Stephen-Smith added that while some of the vaccine mandates are flexible, the one for teachers will end at the end of December, and will need to be renewed if it’s decided that it’s necessary next year.

“That’s about recognising that there is likely to be a vaccine available for children under 12 by this time,” she said.

Ms Stephen-Smith flagged once again that legislative amendments to the Public Health Act are underway so it can continue to be used to respond to the pandemic.

Dr Coleman said one consideration would be the lack of a vaccine for under-12s and what happens when domestic and international borders are fully open once more.

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Rosi I bet you wouldn’t be grateful to a healthworker who gave you covid because they were unvaccinated. And Nadia you should go back to school and learn about epistemology ie logic, rationality and sound reasoning instead of watching X Files.

It is alarming when workers in the medical profession refuse to take a vaccine for themselves when the rest of us have been told it is safe and beneficial. These people are highly respected and essential medical workers, not rabid antivaxers. So the real question is why are they refusing the vaccine??? Do they know something about it we don’t know? Is the vaccine worse than the disease? We need to know why a significant number of workers in the medical industry would put their own careers at risk rather than take this vaccine. We need honesty, not hysteria, rational analysis, not a moral panic.

Acton,
What you just said is not remotely true.

A large portion of the healthcare workforce are lowly paid and not highly educated. You aren’t talking generally about experts here.

As an analogy, I also wouldn’t trust the guy driving my garbage truck to be an expert on best practice waste management technologies either.

And even then, you are talking about 50 people in the ACT out of thousands. If your claim was true, seems that 99% or so of healthcare workers think that the vaccine is safe and effective.

Well done on shooting your own argument down.

Tolerance, logic and rational analysis are not your strong points as you so frequently demonstrate in sniping commentaries. Attempting to shut off debate shows a closed mind. It is your assumption that those refusing the vaccine are all lowly paid and uneducated. It is a false assumption that teachers, police officers and others refusing the vaccine are also all lowly paid and uneducated. It is an assumption based on the view that anyone having a different opinion must be wrong or lowly paid or uneducated. They may have a legitimate reason for their reluctance to vaccinate, which I would like to know because my mind is not closed to new facts, alternative views, or the views of minorities. Dismissing the views of any minority, whether it be around the table, in an industry or within a population is arrogance and has dire consequences. Your garbage truck analogy is nonsence because often it is those in frontline positions who first become aware of and report malpractice and corruption.

Acton,
I never said they were all lowly paid and uneducated, reading is clearly not your strong point. But we already knew that.

Direct quote from me:
“A large portion of the healthcare workforce are lowly paid and not highly educated”.

100% true.

Your claim which I was responding to:

“These people are highly respected and essential medical workers, not rabid antivaxers”

Working in an industry does not suddenly give you super powers and make you “highly respected”.

The facts are that the overwhelming majority of healthcare workers have been vaccinated.

Yet you want to focus on the tiny minority as if they somehow have some special insight without a shred of evidence to back you up.

And sorry, my garbage truck analogy is perfectly relevant. Because no, front line staff do not somehow gain extra qualifications or scientific knowledge because of their job. In fact they are often the ones most afflicted by cognitive biases because they can’t see the overall picture or data that’s available and wouldn’t understand it anyway.

Your mind is closed to new facts because you’re attempting to clutch at straws to find anything to back up your predetermined position rather than objectively looking at facts.

People like me on the other hand are perfectly open to new evidence and science.

But sadly for you, all the actual evidence points to the fact that the Covid vaccines are safe and effective.

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