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Australian Catholic group seeks mandatory vaccines for hospital staff

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian calls for a 'refocusing' of Australia's vaccine rollout

Debbie Cramsie, Catholic News Service

Debbie Cramsie, Catholic News Service

Published: July 27, 2021 07:01 AM GMT

Updated: July 27, 2021 07:05 AM GMT

Australian Catholic group seeks mandatory vaccines for hospital staff

People queue outside a vaccination center in Sydney on June 24 as residents were largely banned from leaving the city to stop a growing outbreak of the contagious Delta Covid-19 variant spreading to other regions. (Photo: AFP)

With a national emergency declared in Australia's most populous state, Catholic not-for-profit hospitals called on the Australian government to make vaccinations compulsory for all hospital staff across the country.

At a crisis cabinet meeting, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian called for a "refocusing" of Australia's vaccine rollout.

"There is no doubt that if we want to contain this virus and stop it impacting our freedom and our economy, we need to have a discussion about refocusing the national vaccination strategy," she said.

As the outbreak continues to worsen, an urgent call has been made for a plan to ensure every health care worker has an appointment to get inoculated. Currently it is not mandatory for hospital staff to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The primary body representing Catholic not-for-profit hospitals, Catholic Health Australia, says its members are already redeploying unvaccinated staff to clinical areas where there is a lower risk of contact with Covid-19 patients and vaccinating staff as and when supplies become available.

But it says a uniform rule to get the vaccine should be in place for hospital staff -- regardless of whether they work in any other clinical or support position.

The high transmissibility of the Delta variant of Covid is putting workers and the people they care for at greater risk as well as putting extra strain on staff

James Kemp, CHA's health policy director, noted that "every year, health care staff are required to get vaccinated against the flu, and yet there's no such directive for Covid."

"The high transmissibility of the Delta variant of Covid is putting workers and the people they care for at greater risk as well as putting extra strain on staff. We need a single, uniform rule across Australia for everyone working in a hospital environment," he said.

CHA's call comes as France joins a growing list of countries mandating vaccinations for its healthcare workforce.

The Australian government already requires all residential aged-care staff to be vaccinated by mid-September and has put in place a package of measures such as paid leave for casual staff or an A$80 flat fee for staff who must go off site.

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Catholic Health Australia is the nation's largest non-government grouping of health and aged care services accounting for approximately 10 percent of hospital-based health care in Australia.

Its members also provide around 25 percent of private hospital care, 5 percent of public hospital care, 12 percent of aged care facilities, and 20 percent of home care and support for the elderly.

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