Hundreds of health workers at risk of job loss over COVID-19 jabs

Sydney Morning Herald, 11 November 2021

Up to 2000 health workers risk losing their jobs for not being vaccinated against COVID-19 with paramedics, nurses and doctors who have been stood down expected to explain why they have not got a shot.

NSW Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes said the state was “very close to making the call” about terminating the employment of health workers refusing to get a COVID-19 jab without an adequate reason.

He said of 140,000 employees, up to 1000, including his members faced losing their jobs in the coming weeks. He said paramedics, nurses, and doctors who were stood down at the end of last month were now expected to “show cause” why they have not been vaccinated. Nurse union members could take the number up a further 1000.

“Decisions could be made on their employment this week and next week,” Mr Hayes said. “It is a very small minority of health workers.”

NSW Health said 215 health workers had so far quit since late last month over their position on vaccination.

“Any further people leaving NSW Health due to their views on the COVID-19 vaccine will be known in coming weeks,” a NSW Health spokeswoman said. “Local Health Districts need to work through each person’s particular circumstances and due process needs to be applied to all employees.”

The news of further job losses come as a paramedic lost his Supreme Court challenge against mandatory vaccination on religious grounds on Wednesday.

John Edward Larter, a paramedic from Tumut in the NSW Riverina, sought an exemption from vaccination on religious grounds. He also challenged the validity of the COVID-19 public health orders that made it mandatory for him to get vaccinated.

The court rejected his application and upheld the public health orders saying it would be of no comfort to a patient infected by an unvaccinated healthcare worker to be told they were “unlucky by being in the wrong ward at the wrong time because most healthcare workers had been vaccinated”.

The court heard Mr Larter is a Catholic who was opposed to getting a COVID-19 vaccination because the AstraZeneca vaccine may have been developed from the cell lines of an aborted fetus. He was also opposed to stem cell research which he believes may have been used in the development of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Justice Christine Adamson said she accepted the plaintiff’s religious beliefs “are genuinely held” and appeared “to depart from public statements made by the Catholic Church in response to the pandemic”. The Catholic Church has approved the use of COVID-19 vaccination.

At least 98 per cent of NSW Health’s workforce had received one dose of the vaccine and 95 per cent have received two doses.

“Of its entire workforce of more than 140,000 people, just 0.1 per cent (215) have resigned due to their vaccination position as of 25 October 2021,” the spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said that while any resignation was disappointing, Local Health Districts had management plans in place to limit potential disruptions.

Meanwhile, the NSW Department of Education said 2500 teachers had not declared their vaccination status as of Thursday. But this did not mean they were unvaccinated. “As of November 11, approximately 700 staff had applied for a medical exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine and 350 had been accepted, allowing those staff to return to schools,” a spokesman said.