WA Health COVID-19 vaccination to become mandatory for Western Australian health care workers | AMA (WA)

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WA Health COVID-19 vaccination to become mandatory for Western Australian health care workers

Friday September 3, 2021

Australian Medical Association

Yesterday WA Health announced that the Health Worker (Restrictions on Access) Directions (Directions) will come into effect on 1 October 2021, making it compulsory for both health care workers and health support staff to be vaccinated for  COVID-19.

The Chief Health Officer has approved the (Restrictions on Access) Directions (HWAD) which will see all workers across tier one, two and three facilities to be denied access to their workplace if they fail to be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022.

WA Health has released the following FAQs which provide details relating to worker types, key dates, facility descriptions and exemptions in the latest Directions.

Listen to yesterday’s press conference with AMA (WA) President, Dr Mark Duncan-Smith HERE

CLICK HERE to read the new Health Worker (Restrictions on Access) Directions.

 

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS – ACCESS RESTRICTIONS FOR HEALTH CARE AND HEALTH SUPPORT WORKER ( Released by WA Health on 2 September 2021)
  1. Why do health care and health support workers need to be vaccinated?

Based on the latest health advice from Western Australia’s Chief Health Officer, due to the evolving Delta variant and risks of COVID-19, health care and health support workers will need to be vaccinated to access health care facilities from 1 October 2021.

This will be done in a staged approach to ensure impacted health staff who work with the most vulnerable Western Australians get the COVID-19 vaccine.

  1. Does this apply to me?

The access restrictions apply to all health care workers and health support workers employed and engaged in all health care facilities, as outlined in the Health Worker (Restrictions on Access) Directions (Directions) unless you have an exemption.

This requirement will be implemented through a staged approach. By the final stage everyone employed by WA Health, other than workers with an exemption, must be fully vaccinated, including those employed in office roles, such as employees of Health Support Services and the Department of Health.

All health care and support workers in private hospitals must also be fully vaccinated, in accordance with the staged approach, in order to access those facilities.

  1. Which workers are covered by the Directions?

All health care and health support workers, as defined below, in public and private hospitals and in public health care facilities are covered by the Directions. Question 4 outlines the date by which you will need to have been partially or fully vaccinated in order to access health care facilities.

Health care workers include:

  • all those who provide health, medical, nursing, pathology, pharmaceutical, social work or allied health services to a patient at the health care facility in any capacity;
  • assistants in nursing, orderlies and hospital service assistants;
  • students on placement; and
  • ambulance officers.

Health support workers include those who provide goods or services at a health care facility, both in a paid and in a voluntary or unpaid capacity. This includes:

  • a person employed or engaged by a third party, including a labour-hire firm who provides staff to supplement the permanent workforce;
  • a direct care worker including a personal care worker;
  • administrative staff including those working in administration, management or reception services;
  • ancillary staff including cleaners, laundry staff, gardeners, food preparation services, security officers and maintenance services;
  • those providing lifestyle and social care, for example, music or art therapy; and
  • a person who provides commercial activities at premises that constitute a health care facility.

See also Question 13 for information on exempt workers.

  1. Do the access restrictions apply to subcontractors or external workers working at or attending a health care?

Any person who provides goods and services at a health care facility will need to be vaccinated to access the facility. This includes labour-hire firms who provides staff to supplement the permanent workforce or staff employed in cafes and kiosks on-premises.

Certain in-reach service providers or contractors who are employed or engaged by third parties who provide goods and services at a health care facility do not need to be vaccinated in order to access health care facilities. This includes delivery drivers, persons providing one-off trade deliveries, tradespersons, pastoral care workers or clergy and solicitors.

See also Question 13 for information on exempt workers.

  1. Are all health care facilities covered by the Directions?

Yes. All public and private hospitals and public health care facilities are covered by the Directions.

Health care facilities will be covered by a staged introduction of the vaccine requirements with health care staff who work in high-risk areas to be vaccinated first.

Tier one health care facilities include the following public and private facilities:

  • intensive care units within a hospital;
  • high dependency units within a hospital;
  • respiratory wards within a hospital;
  • emergency departments within a hospital;
  • COVID (testing) Clinics;
  • COVID-19 vaccination community clinics and regional COVID-19 vaccination clinics; and
  • wards with designated respiratory beds within certain regional hospitals.

Tier two health care facilities include all hospitals, both private and public.

Tier three health care facilities extend to:

  • all public health service facility premises, including facilities providing support services and where, contracted health entities provide public health services and including vehicles from which public health services are provided; and
  • any premises of the Department of Health or a public health service provider.

Tier three ensures all employees of the Department of Health or a health service provider, other than those with an exemption, will be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022 in order to access health care facilities.

See also Question 6 for information regarding the staged rollout.

  1. When will the access restrictions apply to health care and health support workers?

From 1 October 2021, health care and health support workers will need to have received at least the first dose of a vaccine to enter the high risk tier one health care facilities, both public and private. Tier one includes areas of highest risk, as defined at Question 5.

From 1 November 2021:

  • Health care and health support workers will need to be fully vaccinated to enter the high risk tier one health care facilities.
  • Health care workers will need to have received at least the first dose of a vaccine to enter tier two health care facilities. This includes all hospitals, both private and public.

From 1 December 2021:

  • Health care workers will need to be fully vaccinated to enter tier two health care facilities.
  • Health support workers will need to have received at least the first dose of a vaccine to enter tier two health care facilities.
  • Health care and health support workers will need to have received at least the first dose of a vaccine to enter tier three health care facilities. Tier three facilities include all public health care facilities, including support services and Department of Health and health service provider, including Health Support Services, premises.

By 1 January 2022, all health care and support workers will need to be fully vaccinated to enter any health care facility.

The table below summarises the staged approach to vaccination:

Health care facility Health care workers Health support workers
 

Tier 1

1 October 2021 – First dose

1 November 2021 – Fully vaccinated

1 October 2021 – First dose

1 November 2021 – Fully vaccinated

 

Tier 2

1 November 2021 – First dose

1 December 2021 – Fully vaccinated

1 December 2021 – First dose

1 January 2022 – Fully vaccinated

 

Tier 3

1 December 2021 – First dose

1 January 2022 – Fully vaccinated

1 December 2021 – First dose

1 January 2022 – Fully vaccinated

  1. Will I be able to be vaccinated before the deadline?

Additional Pfizer vaccine doses will be provided to health service providers for some public hospitals to offer on-site vaccinations for health care and health support workers in their area.

There will also be additional capacity made available specifically for health care and health support workers in the WA Health community vaccination clinics.

  1. I work in an area nowhere near medical activity and/or do not interact with patients at all. Why do I need to have a vaccination?

All health care facilities have employees that will have come into contact with, or the potential to come into contact with, COVID-19 positive people.

Transmission of COVID-19 in hospitals has the potential to cause serious illness and death in staff, patients and visitors. Some patients, including those in intensive care, high dependency and respiratory units are particularly vulnerable if infected with COVID-19. Based on the public health advice, hospitals need to take reasonable precautions to protect from these risks. COVID-19 vaccinations have been shown to be highly effective in preventing infections in individuals and subsequently reducing transmission of the virus to others if a vaccinated person is infected.

Given the integrated nature of the WA Health system and occupational groups, there are risks to all employees and our patients and other users of the health care system unless the workforce is vaccinated, including those in administrative and office roles.

  1. Which vaccines are available? Do I get to choose?

You will be eligible to receive a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of your age. However, you can choose to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. This applies to all health care and health support workers covered by the Directions.

If you have already received the first dose of an AstraZeneca vaccine, you must have the same vaccine for your second dose. If you have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, you must have the same vaccine for your second dose.

  1. When am I considered to be fully vaccinated?

In order to be considered fully vaccinated for the purpose of the Directions, you must have been administered with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine registered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). This includes the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.

You will be partially vaccinated if you have been administered with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine registered by the TGA.

  1. How do I demonstrate I have been vaccinated?

The Chief Health Officer will approve the forms of evidence of vaccination, including a COVID-19 digital vaccination certificate or an immunisation history statement recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register.

A health care worker or health support worker must produce for inspection and recording evidence of their vaccination if directed to do so by an emergency officer or required to do so by their employer or the owner/occupier/person in charge of the health care facility.

  1. Will I still be paid if I have to leave work for my vaccine appointment?

You need to speak with your line manager before making a booking if you intend to receive the vaccine during work time. This will help your employer and your team ensure work and services continue. This is normal practice.

For WA Health employees, consistent with advice from the Public Sector Commission, public sector employees are allowed reasonable work time in which to receive a vaccination. This includes reasonable travel time to and from the vaccination centre, pharmacy, Aboriginal health service general practice where you are receiving your vaccine.

Employees in the private sector should seek advice from their employer.

  1. I have a medical certificate saying I cannot have the vaccine due to medical reasons. What do I do?

The Directions provide exemptions for certain categories of employees, which includes a person with a medical exemption. Medical exemptions must be recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register and displayed on your Immunisation History Statement. Further information about criteria is available from the Australian Government website which specifies that the only reasons you might be able to get an exemption from having a vaccine are if you:

  • had anaphylaxis after a previous dose of a vaccine;
  • had anaphylaxis after a dose of any component of a vaccine, or
  • are significantly immunocompromised—for live vaccines only.

If you have a legitimate reason for not being vaccinated such as a medical exemption, you should raise this with your line manager. Alternative work arrangements may then be considered.

See also Question 14 for information on obtaining a medical exemption.

  1. How do I get an exemption from the vaccination requirements?

You will be an exempt person if:

  • You have a medical exemption. Immunisation medical exemption criteria is available from the Australian Government website.
  • You have a temporary exemption, for example, you may be granted a temporary exemption if you have been vaccinated overseas with a vaccine that has not been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration or if you are in an area where vaccine availability is limited and you have made every effort to obtain a vaccine.
  • You are performing a specific duty as outlined in the Directions.
  • You are a person of the kind listed in the Directions as exempt.
  • Any other person declared to be exempt, which will only occur in exceptional circumstances.

Decisions on temporary exemptions will be considered by the Chief Health Officer on a case by case basis and may be subject to terms and conditions.

  1. If I have an adverse reaction to the vaccination and need to take time off work, does this come out of my personal leave/annual leave/paid leave? Can I access COVID- 19 leave?

Please stay home and do not come to work if you feel unwell and seek treatment from your doctor as required. Permanent and fixed-term employees can access accrued personal/sick leave as with any other illness.

For WA Health employees with an entitlement to COVID-19 leave is accessible pursuant to Government Sector Labour Relations Circulars.

COVID-19 leave is accessible for reactions to a vaccination where personal or sick leave entitlements have been exhausted. This arrangement extends to casual employees.

Your Employer may request reasonable evidence, for example, a medical certificate, before granting access to COVID-19 leave.

  1. What happens if I choose not to get vaccinated?

An unvaccinated employee without an exemption, may not be able to access their workplace as set out in the table at Question 6. This may mean an employee can no longer perform their role, putting their employment at risk.

For WA Health workers, the Department of Health and public health service providers will issue an employer direction requiring employees to be vaccinated in accordance with the staged approach as provided for in the Directions.

Workers engaged in the private sector should seek advice from their employer.

It is an offence to fail to comply with the Directions without a reasonable excuse, punishable by a fine of up to $20,000. This is separate to any disciplinary action that may be taken by your employer.

However, if you have a legitimate medical reason for refusing a vaccination, please refer to Question 13.

  1. Do the access restrictions apply to visitors to health care facilities?

Vaccination is strongly encouraged for any visitors entering a health care facility but the access restrictions do not apply. The Government may place limitations on visitors in the event there is community spread.

  1. What happens if I need to attend hospital as a patient or visitor?

The Directions only apply to you in your capacity as a health care or health support worker.

The access restrictions do not apply if you attend a health care facility solely as a patient or visitor, but vaccination is strongly encouraged.

  1. Where can I go for more information about vaccines?

For more information regarding vaccination eligibility and bookings, visit the following websites:

 

Last Updated 2 September 2021. For further updates visit the WA Health website.