*** This post was updated on 2 July 2021 to include a more appropriate image. ***
Introduction by Croakey: Late Monday, National Cabinet agreed to mandate that all residential aged care workers should have had at least one COVID vaccine dose by mid-September (currently, about one-third have had a dose).
It was the third time National Cabinet had considered the move, and the Prime Minister made it clear in his later media conference that he had pushing strongly for this measure.
Nonetheless, a further risk benefit assessment would be undertaken with the findings to be reported back to National Cabinet by early August, he said.
Morrison said it was important to ensure there were no unintended consequences, such as reducing the available workforce, and the Government would therefore provide an $11 million grant program to encourage residential aged care facilities to give staff leave to get vaccinated.
Professor Paul Kelly, the Commonwealth’s Chief Medical Officer, told the media conference that the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee had held “robust discussions” on the issue, with chief health officers wanting some issues addressed, but they now supported the move unanimously.
Meanwhile, the next National Cabinet meeting, due for Friday, is expected to consider whether mandatory vaccination will be introduced for residential disability care workers.
“When it comes to the issues of mandatory vaccines, this is not something that any government should do lightly, imposing on a person the requirement to have a vaccine or not be able to work in a particular sector is something that no government would do lightly,” Morrison said.
“And, as a result, you know, we have been considering this matter for some time now, based on the best possible medical advice. And it was only at this point this evening, after some determined questioning of the AHPPC by the National Cabinet, and myself in particular, that we have arrived at the position tonight that supports that decision. So we will continue to listen to the medical advice on these issues, but we’ll also continue to make decisions and set out the way forward.”
Meanwhile, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Foundation Federal Secretary Annie Butler today wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for urgent answers to a range of related questions. It is published in full below.
Annie Butler writes:
Dear Prime Minister,
Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination in Aged Care
I am writing on behalf of Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) members across Australia, who are currently working in private residential aged care (i.e. Federal Government run aged care), to seek clarification on the details and requirements relating to Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination in Aged Care, announced by you following yesterday’s National Cabinet meeting.
The ANMF is a very strong supporter of immunisation and vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccines, and has been strongly encouraging all members to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as practicable. While many of our members working in state and territory public health systems have been able to access COVID-19 vaccination, this has not been the case for those working in private aged care. This is despite the ANMF advocating for improved access to vaccines and support to enable aged care workers to get vaccinated for the past three months.
The ANMF always adheres to and promotes expert public health advice, most particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. While noting that advice from [Australian Health Protection Principal Committee] in relation to the direction to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for aged care workers has yet to be released and therefore the precise health evidence for the direction remains unclear, there are many details that need to be clarified.
The ANMF is therefore seeking clarification on the following questions:
1. What education in relation to the vaccines and the announcement will be provided and disseminated to aged care staff?
2. What vaccine will the Government make available to aged care staff and will they be offered a choice of vaccine?
3. Will a workplace delivery program be provided or are staff to rely on existing services only to be vaccinated?
4. What are the details of the grants for aged care facilities to support workers to receive the vaccine and what measures will be in place to ensure the grants are used solely for that purpose? And, will the grants apply to both casual and permanent aged care staff?
5. Will special paid leave be provided so that workers do not have to use personal leave for the vaccination and in the event they become unwell, as is available in several public health systems?
6. In the event that an aged care worker suffers a major adverse event following vaccination will they be covered by workers compensation?
7. What evidence will need to be submitted in order to access the above initiatives?
8. What impact will a vaccinated workforce have on the requirement for Single Site Employment directives to be issued into the future?
9. What contingency plans are in place or will be put in place to care for residents in facilities, in the event a number of workers do not receive their first vaccination by the September deadline?
10. Will the COVID-19 vaccine also be mandated for aged care residents, visitors and contractors?
11. Does the announcement also apply to those aged staff who are providing in-home care under home care packages?
12. What is to occur to those who may not have received their first vaccination by the September deadline? Are they to be stood down until they receive their vaccination or dismissed?
13. What arrangements will be in place for those who have legitimate health reasons as to why the vaccine is contraindicated? Will they be dismissed?
14. Will alternate work (other than direct resident care) within the facility be an option to standing down/dismissal that employers will be required to explore/provide?
Thank you for your consideration of this request. As you would appreciate, we are seeking your responses to these critical questions as a matter of urgency to ensure that we can provide the best support possible to ANMF members to understand the process and assist them in accessing COVID19 vaccination as appropriate.
cc. Hon Greg Hunt, MP Hon Richard Colbeck, MP Alison McMillan, Chief Nursing & Midwifery Officer Hon Mark Butler, MP
Annie Butler is Federal Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.
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