The Territory’s frontline healthcare workers in the public system will have to comply with vaccination requirements even after the current public health declaration, which initially mandated their vaccination, is revoked on 13 May.
Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith has confirmed the new arrangements would be stricter than the current rules for Canberra Health Services’ staff.
“Currently, [CHS workers] are required to have a primary course of vaccination. They will be required under their new workplace arrangements to be ‘up to date’ with their vaccination in accordance with new advice from ATAGI,” Ms Stephen-Smith said this afternoon.
“That means that those staff will be required to have had a booster shot by the 12th of May.”
The ‘up to date’ mandate will be applied to all patient-facing Canberra Health Services (CHS) staff while Calvary staff members will still be required to have at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
But Ms Stephen-Smith said she understood private hospitals would look to implement the revised mandate going forward.
“Canberrans who may have been concerned about hearing that the vaccination requirement for healthcare staff was being removed as part of a public health direction can be reassured that our frontline and public health services will still require vaccination,” Ms Stephen-Smith explained.
Yesterday, the Minister announced that the public health directions which mandated vaccination for healthcare workers and education staff in some settings would be revoked from 13 May after the Chief Health Officer advised it was appropriate to do so.
She said at the time that employers in these settings would be able to implement their own COVID-19 vaccination policies in the same way many workplaces have vaccine policies in place.
The Minister acknowledged that “with the power of hindsight” it could have been “sensible” to have made this announcement yesterday.
But she confirmed there had been ongoing consultation with CHS staff and their unions and all had been aware of the impending change to vaccination requirements.
Ms Stephen-Smith said that vaccine mandates – when made as part of a public health direction – are unable to provide any nuance regarding “the type of staff who really should be vaccinated, and other staff who may be able to return to non patient-facing roles without being vaccinated”.
She also described it as a “more mature” approach to managing COVID-19.
The ACT Government continues to work on passing specific pandemic management legislation which would allow it to step down from a public health emergency, although this is now unlikely to be brought forward for debate until next month.
At last count, 38 frontline CHS staff had yet to provide their vaccination status to their employer and had been redeployed to non-patient-facing roles.
CHS is unable to provide updated statistics on how many of its 8500 workers are not ‘up to date’ with their COVID-19 vaccination course.
It remains unclear whether teachers and school staff working in primary and early childhood settings will still be required to be vaccinated after the mandate drops.
Forty teachers and school staff were unable to provide their vaccination status to the ACT Education Directorate before Term One this year. Those staff members had either been moved to work from home or redeployed within the directorate or the broader ACT public service.
Mask mandates have also officially come to an end in schools, but ACT public schools have kept them in place for at least the first two weeks of term.
An announcement is expected later this week on the arrangements in public schools from next week.
Vaccination mandates remain in place for workers in aged care and disability in line with national guidelines for those sectors, Ms Stephen-Smith said yesterday.
The ACT has recorded three COVID-19 deaths in the last three days and 1080 new infections overnight.