From June 15, aged care providers must report vaccination numbers to the Department of Health. However, the government’s official communications state, “It is currently voluntary for aged care workers to notify their workplace if they have received a COVID-19 vaccination.”
The exception is South Australia, which has passed legislation to make it compulsory for aged care staff to inform their employer if they have received their shot.
Ciarán Foley, Chief Executive of Allambie Heights Village, told HelloCare the message was confusing.
Though staff at Allambie Heights have been willing to share their vaccination status with the provider and the information can be decoded so individuals can not be identified, there is a mixed message at the heart of the government’s requirement.
“It is confusing because it says a staff member does not need to tell his or her employer.
“The GPs and the hubs should have been taking note of where people are working and that’s clearly been a fault [in the rollout].”
This is not the first time Foley and his team have received unclear messaging from the government about the vaccine rollout.
“Australia started very, very well dealing with the pandemic. But as the weeks have gone on, things have not gone as well with the vaccination of staff.”
In March, staff and residents at Allambie prepared to receive the vaccine as part of the 1A and 1B prioritisation groups.
“We were a designated priority group, but it didn’t happen that way,” Foley told HelloCare.
In practice, staff weren’t treated as a priority group and they “were told by the Department of Health and the various health authorities to go and sort this out yourself.”
“That caused confusion,” Foley said.
It would have been “very easy” if staff were offered the vaccine at the same time as residents.
“That would have made it very simple.”
Today, all of Allambie’s residents are fully vaccinated – for both COVID-19 and the flu.
The first COVID-19 doses were administered on March 10 and the second on March 31. The process for residents went “swimmingly”, Foley said.
Nationwide though, no one knows how many aged care workers have received the jab, but last week some put the figure as low as 10%.
Aged care minister Richard Colbeck came under fire recently when he could not say how many aged care workers had been vaccinated.
With no obligation for aged care workers to inform their employer if they’re vaccinated, we may still be some way off getting a clear picture of the true number.
Foley said the “reprioritising” of the over 50s following reports of blood clots, including two deaths, has also generated “a degree of confusion” and concerns about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Foley himself has had his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine at the Homebush vaccination hub in Sydney.
When aged care workers are blamed for bringing the virus into aged care homes, Foley believes the blame really lies in the government’s handling of the crisis, not the individual workers.
“I think that’s very unkind [to blame aged care workers], to say the least,” Foley said.
“It’s terribly unfair for an individual who has done so much over the years to be labelled. They are a member of the Australian community. We’ve got to share the responsibility.
“So, either you’ve got to mandate the vaccination or we’re going to struggle as a community. Borders will stay closed, flights will not go out, and we’re still going to be in a situation in months and months to come.”