National guidelines for mandatory vaccination needed

17 Sep 2021

Health care workers vaccinating other health care workers


The Queensland Government’s decision to mandate COVID vaccinations for all Queensland Health and Queensland Ambulance Services employees is welcome, but nationally consistent rules are needed to give legal certainty to employers in private practice.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, the Hon Yvette D’Ath MP, announced the public health order during the Queensland Government’s daily COVID update on Sunday 12 September.

AMA Queensland and the Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation Queensland (ASMOFQ) have called for mandatory vaccinations for all workers in the health care system, public and private, as COVID inevitably makes its way north to Queensland.

Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania have also made or flagged public health orders for health care workers, but not all of them include GPs and practice staff, pharmacists, hospital staff, and cooks and cleaners.

A survey of AMA Queensland and ASMOFQ members in August found that nine in 10 support mandatory vaccinations for all health care workers, and almost 80 per cent are concerned about working alongside unvaccinated workers.

AMA Queensland joins with the federal AMA in calling for National Cabinet to act on nationally consistent public health orders for all health care workers.

“Health care workers were prioritised in the first stages of the vaccine rollout and for good reasons,” AMA Queensland President Professor Chris Perry said.

“Everyone who works in the health system – doctors, nurses, allied health workers, cleaners, cooks and administration staff – is vital to providing safe patient care, and to keeping each other safe at work.

“We cannot continue to have a situation where people catch COVID in their workplace, or worry about taking it home to their families and loved ones.”

ASMOFQ President Dr Hau Tan said doctors have the highest vaccination rates in the state and are to be commended for leading by example.

“All health care workers who can be vaccinated must be vaccinated. It doesn’t matter if you’re treating patients in the ICU or taking down their details at the front desk, you are at risk of contracting COVID-19, passing it on to others and becoming severely ill or even dying,” Dr Tan said.

“It doesn’t take many health care workers either being sick or required to self-isolate for weeks to wreak havoc on staffing levels within hospitals, and the capacity to provide adequate services to our patients.”

Dr Maria Boulton, the AMA Queensland Council of General Practice chair, said workers and employers alike need protection, both from COVID and from legal repercussions.

“The Delta strain is coming – that is an inevitability,” Dr Boulton said.

“We need as many people vaccinated as possible, and that includes the health workforce.

“Public health orders are a government responsibility. It should not be left up to individual employers to bear the responsibility for requiring their workers to be vaccinated, or for not ensuring that they are.

“This is about the safety of health care workers, their colleagues, and their patients. It is up to governments to give employers and employees certainty through nationally consistent public health orders.”

Published: 17 Sep 2021