Wed. May 18th, 2022

Top medical authorities are concerned that a lack of implementation of nationally consistent Covid-19 vaccination policies has left New South Wales healthcare workers, such as GPs and some private healthcare providers, free to continue their work unvaccinated.

NSW introduced laws requiring healthcare professionals to have had at least one Covid vaccination by September 30, but the mandate only covers NSW Health employees and doctors and nurses in private hospitals. Other healthcare professionals, such as general practitioners and other specialists working in non-hospital settings, remain excluded.

The exceptions have created uncertainty for private healthcare providers. It’s a live problem for Chiron Weber, business manager at Mullumbimby Comprehensive Health Center on the north coast of NSW.

Mullumbimby, known for its alternative lifestyle, has proven to be a haven for vaccination doubts since the covid rollout began. Most of the staff at the privately run medical center have been vaccinated, but there is no requirement that they do so, and Weber said there had been a holdout.

This week, he was informed that one of his staff, who treats some patients in the public system through subsidized dental care, will no longer be able to do so.

“So it will have some impact on us, yes,” he said.

“We have not given a direct mandate or anything. A very large part of the staff has been vaccinated [but] there are some that are not and that we think do not want to be, so what we are potentially looking at goes on the road to rapid antigen testing.

“It is a difficult task as an employer, and honestly I would call on a body like Ahpra [the Australian Health Practitioner Agency] or the state or federal governments to call what was going to happen and not leave it to small businesses to do their dirty work. ”

NSW Health said the inconsistencies related to its reach. It may impose vaccines on public and private hospital staff due to the overlap between the two systems, but among others, general practitioners and dentists remain within the domain of the federal government.

Last week, the Australian Health Protection Committee issued a statement recommending a general approach to mandates to include private provider facilities, such as GPs, private nursing and consulting offices, pharmacies and private pathology centers, but the national cabinet has not yet agreed on proposals.

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A number of top medical authorities agree that this is necessary and point to clear inconsistencies in the way state health departments have introduced mandates for health workers.

In August, the Australian Private Hospitals Association called on the National Cabinet to adopt an Australian approach to vaccination mandates for hospital staff to help achieve “full vaccination of this important workforce”.

Two months later, the situation has not improved. Michael Roff, CEO of APHA, said that although state mandates covered most employees, there was a “potential for people to fall through the holes”.

Roff pointed to the example of Queensland, where mandates had been introduced in the public hospital system, but not the private one.

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“This makes no sense when we know that staff routinely work across both systems,” he said.

“A clear, national approach, based on health advice from Australia’s chief medical officer, would provide the entire healthcare sector with a benchmark for who should be vaccinated, on what date and provide assurance to all jurisdictions that healthcare workers are safe.”

The Australian Medical Association agrees. Its president, dr. Omar Khorshid, has also called for vaccination mandates to be made consistent nationally and argues that health protection should be provided to health care employers.

“Most healthcare providers in Australia are small businesses that do not have the time or resources to navigate complex occupational health and safety laws. We need to make it easier for them to be vaccinated, which is the best way to protect their staff and patients, ”he said.

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