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Australian Catholic hospitals call on government to make vaccinations compulsory for all hospital staff

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A nurse checks a patient's temperature before testing him for COVID-19 at Westmead Hospital in Sydney May 12, 2020. With a national emergency declared in New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, Catholic not-for-profit hospitals are calling on the Australian government to make vaccinations compulsory for all hospital staff across Australia. (CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters)

SYDNEY — 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.

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 health care 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 a $80 flat fee for staff who must go off site.

Catholic Health Australia is the nation’s largest nongovernment grouping of health and aged care services accounting for approximately 10% of hospital-based health care in Australia.

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

By Debbie Cramsie, Catholic News Service