Thousands of Queensland Health employees will be shut out of their workplaces from Monday after failing to comply with the COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
- The COVID-19 vaccine has been mandated for the 90,000 Queensland Health staff who care for patients
- More than 2,300 staff have sought an exemption from the vaccine
- The Director-General has warned they will soon be shut out of workplaces, sparking concerns of staffing shortages
Figures provided by the department show more than 2,300 staff have applied for exemptions to the mandate.
From November 1, no employee would be allowed to work in a public hospital without being fully vaccinated, Queensland Health Director-General John Wakefield told staff in an email.
Although the numbers represent only a small percentage of the Queensland Health workforce, health insiders have expressed concerns about workforce shortages at a time when public hospitals are already extremely stretched.
Dr Wakefield said the “time for [saying] please” had gone.
“In NSW and Victoria, we have seen the effects of transmission of COVID-19 to patients inside hospitals and the tragic outcomes for these people.
“We all have a duty to minimise this risk and I intend to take a very firm stance on this critical safety issue.
“It is with this in mind that from 1 November, 2021 there can be no employee working in a facility where care is provided without being fully vaccinated.”
Dr Wakefield said Queensland Health would continue to work with staff who had received or applied for an exemption of the mandatory vaccination direction to find “alternative arrangements”.
This may include taking leave, working remotely or being moved into an alternative temporary role.
Unvaccinated workers to expect disciplinary action
Vaccination is mandated for the estimated 90,000 Queensland Health employees who work in facilities where care is provided.
“If you haven’t responded to calls to upload your vaccination details and have not applied for an exemption, then you are not compliant with the requirement to be vaccinated and from 1 November will not be able to enter a facility where care is provided to undertake your duties,” Dr Wakefield said.
“You can expect to be notified in writing and maybe the subject of a discipline pathway.
The numbers of Queensland Health workers who remain unvaccinated and have not applied for an exemption is unclear.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the unvaccinated health workers would be given a “show cause” notice if they have still not received their first dose of a vaccine by November.
“I’m very thrilled that we’ve got well over 90 per cent already vaccinated,” she said.
As of October 16, Queensland Health data shows 94.4 per cent of employees had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 88.3 per cent were fully vaccinated.
Infectious disease physician Paul Griffin, an associate professor at the University of Queensland, said health workers had a duty of care to their patients, and other staff, to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Any healthcare workers that aren’t getting vaccinated, I think, does set a dangerous precedent and a poor example,” he said.
Professor Griffin said there were very few “truly genuine medical reasons” for health workers to be exempted from the COVID vaccination mandate.
Government makes no apologies
Ms D’Ath said the government made no apologies for mandating the vaccine for health workers.
“We saw with the Indooroopilly cluster, when we had health workers having to go into isolation for 14 days because of contact, we cannot afford to have large volumes of our health workers being sick with the virus themselves and then potentially spreading that to patients and visitors,” Ms D’Ath said.
“The number of staff that may end up not working in our health system because they are unvaccinated is still far less than the number of staff that we will end up not having in the workplace if they were all unvaccinated.
“That is why this decision has been made.”
She said around the world more than 100,000 health workers have died from the virus.
“There is a small proportion out there who at this stage have made the decision not to get vaccinated and that is their right to do that but it is a very small portion of a workforce that is more than 100,000 people.
“I have full confidence that our hospitals will manage.”