September 30, 2021
Australia is set to announce new “no jab, no pay” rules for all health workers in a move that is set to inflame tensions with anti-vaxxers.
The Prime Minister will discuss the issue at Friday’s national cabinet amid calls for a national approach to the controversial ban on unvaccinated workers.
News.com.au understands the new national definition will include public hospitals, ambulance services, private hospitals, GPs, private nurse offices and consulting offices.
Even pharmacies and private pathology centres will be covered by the new requirements that all health workers are vaccinated.
The rules will also apply to student nurses and doctors on work experience placements and Defence Department health services.
While some states have already announced vaccine mandates, Victoria, South Australia and the NT are yet to finalise the mandatory vaccination guidelines in their own states for health care workers.
NSW’s own deadline for all health workers to be vaccinated with a first dose expired on Thursday and some workers could be stood down from Friday.
Around 94 per cent of NSW health workers have been vaccinated, but over 5,000 workers remain unvaccinated.
“It’s pretty simple,” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.
“If you don’t care enough to get vaccinated and look after your colleagues, if you don’t care enough about your patient, you probably shouldn’t be in the health system.”
In Queensland, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath has warned workers they must get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“We require our health workers to get vaccinated for a range of immunisations,’’ she said. “This is about keeping them safe, their work colleagues’ safety…and their own family members,” said.
Nearly one in 10 of Queensland’s 115,000 health workers remain unvaccinated.
But the changes are likely to spark tensions after Liberal National MP George Christensen compared mandatory vaccination with slavery and “apartheid” in an online broadcast watched by thousands of anti-vaxxers.
“This is not an anti-vax thing. This is about freedom, and it’s about choice, and it’s about saying to both governments and corporations, you know what, we might be your employee but we’re not your chattel. We’re no longer in a slave relationship where you can demand certain things be done with my body,’’ he said.
“That’s ridiculous. That’s a sort of a view from yesteryear, and the whole rationale for mandating the jab in the workplace, it’s not fair. The mandating, no jab no job rules all the rest of the vaccine discrimination and medical apartheid, certain politicians are proposing, it’s not borne out by the facts.”
Australia’s peak doctors group the AMA have been calling for nationally consistent public health orders for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all healthcare workers, including GPs.
“Most health care providers in Australia are small businesses that don’t have the time or resources needed to navigate complex work health and safety laws,” AMA President Omar Khorshid said.
“We need to make it easier for them to be able to mandate vaccination, which is the best way to protect their staff and patients.”
The AMA wants everyone covered – GPs and practice staff, pharmacists, hospital staff, ambulance staff, cooks and cleaners – leaving no exemptions, except for legitimate medical reasons.
“I am confident that most healthcare workers faced with a very clear message from employers and government that they must get vaccinated will go and do the right thing – it’s the right thing by their patients because it is not fair for a sick patient to be potentially exposed to COVID because staff refused to do the right thing,” Dr Khorshid said.
“The public has an expectation that if they go to a doctor they will be safe and that staff will have been vaccinated.”