The United Workers Union is warning that WA Government public health orders mandating that all residential aged care workers are vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 17 will tip an already strained industry over the edge.
Federal Government statistics show that fewer than 50 percent of Western Australian aged care workers have received one jab and only 25 percent of workers are currently fully vaccinated.
For the State Government to fulfil its own public health directive, 2700 jabs-per-week would need to be delivered over the next five weeks.
The union has been told by both workers and aged care providers that the industry is already struggling to attract and retain staff and that further restrictions would exacerbate the issues.
United Workers Union Aged Care Director Carolyn Smith said that the latest directive will cause panic among aged care workers and will force many to leave the industry.
“The vaccine roll out has been bungled from the get-go, not just through the lack of availability and access but through confusing and mixed messaging coming from the different layers of Government,” Smith said.
“While we will always encourage our members to follow the health advice of the State and Federal chief health officers, it’s not a surprise that there is an element of hesitancy among aged care workers, as misinformation has been able to thrive in the context of regularly changing vaccine advice.
“Even if it was realistic to deliver more than 30,000 doses in five weeks, there hasn’t been enough done to allay the fears of aged care workers who have been subject to not just online misinformation but also reports in the mainstream media around bloodclots and other risks associated with various vaccines.
“With all this considered, if workers are banned from the industry, extreme staffing shortages will become an inevitability and will compound the problems being faced in health as aged care residents will be forced to take up much-needed beds in hospitals.”
The United Workers Union is calling on the State Government and Federal Government to reconsider the 17 September 2021 deadline and to introduce an effective program that addresses aged care workers’ issues in receiving the vaccine, which should also include an education component.