Aged care facilities support mandatory vaccines for staff

Picture: Shutterstock
Picture: Shutterstock

Aged care facilities in south-west Sydney have welcomed the Prime Minister's announcement that COVID-19 vaccines could soon be mandatory for aged care workers.

However, union representatives have flagged concerns with the plan.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement during a press conference earlier this week.

Mr Morrison, along with state and territory leaders, endorsed the plan as infection numbers climbed across greater Sydney.

"This is not something any government should do lightly ... we have been considering this matter for some time now based on the best possible medical advice," Mr Morrison said.

A spokeswoman from Glenfield's Whiddon aged care facility mandating the COVID vaccine was 'a logical next step' to protect vulnerable community members.

"Given the slow rate of vaccine uptake by the community generally to date, frontline workers such as those in aged care should be prioritised to receive the vaccine," she said.

"Close to 90 per cent of residents across Whiddon's care homes in NSW and QLD are now fully vaccinated.

"So far, around 13 per cent of Whiddon employees have reported that they have had a COVID vaccine."

Of the 910 deaths in Australia from COVID-19, 685 have been aged care residents.

The spokeswoman said Whiddon had systems already in place for employees to provide evidence that they had already received the vaccine.

"We are also required to formally report the numbers of employees who have been vaccinated to the government," she said.

"We have been encouraging our employees to have the COVID vaccination and we will continue to engage with our teams to ensure they are informed and understand the vaccination requirements.

"Whiddon have been advocating for in-reach workplace vaccination clinics to be implemented across all care homes as we believe that this is the most effective way for employees to receive the vaccine.

"Accessing the vaccine has been a challenging process for some employees due to the lack of availability of vaccination timeslots or the need to attend clinics outside of work hours.

"These challenges will need to be addressed now that the vaccine is mandatory."

IRT Group chief executive Patrick Reidsaid they also supported the government's decision to make the vaccine mandatory for aged care employees.

"We eagerly await the details of how this will be implemented," he said.

"The COVID-19 vaccine is our best first line of defence to protect aged care residents and employees against this deadly disease.

"As the COVID-19 vaccine program has been and is still currently voluntary it is up to employees to inform us if they have or have not received the vaccine."

However, the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA) has criticised the decision to make COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for the aged care workforce, 'given the Commonwealth government's poor management of the rollout to date'.

NSWNMA general secretary Brett Holmes said the shift to mandatory vaccinations after months of inconsistencies, was another example of the government's inability to properly support the sector.

"The Commonwealth failed the aged care workforce back when it chose to only deliver vaccinations to residents in residential aged care facilities, leaving staff to fend for themselves," Mr Holmes said.

"It didn't have to come to this. If the roll-out was properly streamlined to incorporate the vaccination of aged care staff at the same time as residents, we wouldn't be in this predicament.

"The government must take more responsibility and provide onsite workplace vaccinations for aged care workers.

"Many aged care nurses have described the difficulties they've experienced trying to secure vaccination appointments by themselves and in their own time."

Mr Holmes said the $11 million federal grant announcement would not be enough to cover time off for vaccinations or sick leave that may be required as a result of side effects.

"Providers will need to somehow cover the shortfall or workers will miss out," he said.

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