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Covid-19: Handful of health professionals threaten to quit over vaccine mandate


Health unions say the vast majority of health professionals support the Covid-19 vaccine, with 95 per cent of district health board (DHB) staff in all roles across the country having received their first dose.

Only a “handful” of members who don’t want to get a Covid-19 vaccine have asked for help to fight against the Government’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate, they say.

Of about 53,000 members, the country’s main union for nurses, the New Zealand Nursing Organisation (NZNO), has had fewer than 10 resign their membership and job to date.

Industrial services manager Glenda Alexander​ said the union had received “a handful of requests to fight the mandate”.

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She said the union would not support members to take a legal case against the mandate because the order was “a safety issue for all involved”.

About 15 specialist doctors and dentists who work in public hospitals around the country have contacted their union – the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists – for support to oppose the mandate, executive director Sarah Dalton said. The union has a total membership of about 5000.

Among the 15 who had contacted the union, some said they would quit rather than get the vaccine, while others wanted to wait for another type of vaccine.

Dalton said she was aware of one member who had resigned because of the mandate.

A union representing specialist doctors says about 15 members have asked for support against the vaccine mandate, with some saying they will rather quit than get jabbed.

Hush Naidoo/Unsplash

A union representing specialist doctors says about 15 members have asked for support against the vaccine mandate, with some saying they will rather quit than get jabbed.

Anecdotally, some health professionals have told Stuff the number prepared to quit before being vaccinated could be significantly higher.

The Ministry of Health this week tightened the process to receive an exemption, which would only be available on medical grounds.

Those seeking an exemption will need to meet strict criteria, have their application supported by a suitably qualified healthcare professional, and be approved by a temporary medical exemptions panel overseen by the Ministry of Health.

Dalton​ said members who opposed the mandate were entitled to union assistance in employment matters and would be provided with that.

Sarah Dalton, director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, says members who oppose the vaccination mandate are entitled to union assistance in employment matters.

SUPPLIED

Sarah Dalton, director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, says members who oppose the vaccination mandate are entitled to union assistance in employment matters.

However, that would not extend to taking legal action, as the union supported the public health order, Dalton said.

“We’re only talking about one or two at every district health board.”

She said many more doctors were concerned about when they would get a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine to give them more protection in the high-risk environments they worked in.

The Ministry of Health has declined to release the number of health board staff who will not have been vaccinated before November 15, the date when health workers must have received their first dose by.

STUFF

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announces mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for large parts of the health and education workforces. (Video first published on October 11, 2021)

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for district health boards said 95 per cent of DHB staff in all roles across the country had received their first dose.

Alexander said the NZNO would support those who did not want to get vaccinated to ensure they were given “reasonable information about the vaccination and their options, and offered redeployment opportunities, if possible”.

The union encouraged members to educate themselves about the vaccine with official health information from the Ministry of Health, “not just what may be doing the social media rounds”, Alexander said.

“It is genuinely heartbreaking to be losing nurses on the basis of misinformation.”

The New Zealand Resident Doctors Association, a union representing junior doctors, did not know how many members were not vaccinated. One member had informed the union they had quit their job over the mandate, national secretary Deborah Powell​ said.

Industrial services manager Glenda Alexander says the New Zealand Nurses Organisation has received “a handful of requests” to fight the vaccination mandate. (File photo)

Supplied

Industrial services manager Glenda Alexander says the New Zealand Nurses Organisation has received “a handful of requests” to fight the vaccination mandate. (File photo)

Powell, who is also the national secretary for APEX, a union representing allied and scientific technical health practitioners including psychologists and laboratory technicians, was aware of about 12 members who were not intending to get vaccinated.

In response to members who asked for the union to represent them in a legal case against the Government, APEX advised them about cases currently under way, and rulings to date.

Four former aviation workers this week lost a legal challenge in the High Court to a public health order making the Covid-19 vaccine compulsory for border security staff.

“On our reading of the relevant legislation, we doubted there is a case to be had here, and the latest decision reinforces that view,” Powell said.



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