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Covid 19: Over 1000 health workers stood down over vaccine mandate

Almost two per cent of all District Health Board staff have been stood down, resigned or had their employment terminated due to the mandate. (File photo)

ALDEN WILLIAMS/Stuff

Almost two per cent of all District Health Board staff have been stood down, resigned or had their employment terminated due to the mandate. (File photo)

More than 1000 health workers nationwide have been stood down due to the Covid-19 vaccination mandate.

The number includes 52 doctors, 518 nurses and 90 midwives.

All education and healthcare workers were required to have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by midnight last Monday and must be fully vaccinated by January 1.

The mandate covers health workers, teachers and support staff who have any contact with children or students, as well as early childhood centre staff and home-based educators.

By Monday this week, almost two per cent of the country’s district health board (DHB) total workforce had been stood down, resigned or had their employment terminated due to the mandate.

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Lead DHB chief executive Rosemary Clements said work was continuing to assist unvaccinated staff with any questions they may have, discuss other options such as redeployment, and encouraging them to consider getting vaccinated.

Of the 1461 total staff, 1028 had been stood down, 92 staff resigned, and 341 had their employment terminated.

Staff who chose to be vaccinated while they were stood down, would be able to return to work , Clements said.

Some staff were waiting on an AstraZeneca vaccination, while others were awaiting the outcome of their applications for medical exemptions.

As of Thursday, authorities had processed almost 100 applications by healthcare workers seeking a medical exemption, of which 16 were declined and 81 were approved for a six month exemption.

Where no other alternative or redeployment options could be found and staff confirmed they would not be vaccinated, employment was terminated.

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“DHBs are complying fully with all employment law requirements and we have engaged and agreed with health sector unions on the processes we are following,” Clements said.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson said the ministry was “acutely aware of the need for continuity of the health and disability workforce, particularly midwives,” during the transition to a fully vaccinated workforce.

Clements said mitigations were in place including “careful staff rostering, and close monitoring of any areas where there may be some staff shortage.

“Our absolute focus is on ensuring continuity of patient care.”

Lead DHB chief executive Rosemary Clements says staff who choose to be vaccinated while they are stood down, will be able to return to work. (File photo)

Tom Lee/Stuff

Lead DHB chief executive Rosemary Clements says staff who choose to be vaccinated while they are stood down, will be able to return to work. (File photo)

Additional relocation support was introduced for locum midwives, who relocated for eight weeks or more, to assist with any shortages due to the mandate.

Where a “critical service could be interrupted”, the ministry would consider an employer’s application for a “temporary significant service disruption” exemption.

An employer could make an application to the ministry for individual employees and was required to provide evidence that all other avenues for the continuity of their business had been exhausted before applying.

If successful, an exemption would be granted for the employee for up to six months.

Two businesses with “significantly large workforces” were given a temporary seven-day exemption, granted by Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, while 66 other applications for a significant service disruption exemption were declined.

A further update would be provided in early December about staff who were currently stood down from their DHB.

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