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Covid curtain: Mandatory jabs coming for all staff at five Queensland hospitals

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From cleaners to clinicians, all staff at five major hospitals may soon have to be fully vaccinated, regardless of whether they see COVID-19 patients.

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Queensland currently only requires staff who treat COVID-19 patients to be vaccinated, however the recent infection of a hospital receptionist not only prompted a community lockdown but now a likely change in policy.

Due to the nature of the novel coronavirus, some hospital staff have already been infected at work while others have been infected in the community. The precautions continue to be tightened: as of last week, whenever visitors are banned from hospitals and aged care due to the local threat of COVID-19, so too are any unvaccinated student nurses on clinical placement.

The arrival of the more contagious Delta variant has forced Queensland Health to look at additional steps to protect patients and staff, particularly when any confirmed case requires close contacts to immediately isolate whether infected or not. That has resourcing implications, and previous hospital cases have shut down elective surgery and closed wards for cleaning.

D’Ath today said the local Hospital and Health Services had given in-principle support for vaccinations being made mandatory for all staff at the five Queensland hospitals taking COVID-19 patients:  the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Prince Charles Hospital, Gold Coast University Hospital, Sunshine Coast University Hospital and Cairns Hospital.

The Minister noted that a national mandate for aged care was subject to a three-month transition period and said Queensland Health still had to finalise the operational aspects of such a move.

“There’ll be staff who won’t be able to get it, for various reasons, or are unwilling to get it, that we need to work with,” D’Ath said.

“We don’t want to discriminate or disadvantage people but we do need to make sure that everyone who is in these hospitals can get vaccinated and are vaccinated.”

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said she was consulting with staff, management and unions.

“It is already mandatory for the people in the Covid wards to be vaccinated,” Young said.

Recently, while explaining the challenges in ensuring staff are vaccinated, and where risks may lie, Young noted that after the receptionist was infected at Prince Charles Hospital a nurse at the same hospital caught the virus at a café.

Meanwhile, D’Ath said the latest shipment of Pfizer vaccines had arrived on schedule, allowing Queensland Health to honour existing bookings and allow people seeking their second jab to call ahead for an appointment. Other bookings are delayed until October, and D’Ath said people aged 60-plus, who are not frontline workers, should see their GP.

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