The current blame shifting on vaccination rates to workers has been rejected by aged care providers and unions, including the ANMF.
In a joint statement the Australian Aged Care Collaboration made up of peak organisations for aged care employer groups along with union bodies including the ANMF, AWU, HSU, UWU and ACTU said low vaccination rates were the failing of the government.
Providers and unions have been calling for fast action on vaccinating workers within the high-risk sector for at least six months, however the government’s aged care vaccine program has too often led to disappointment, frustration, confusion and anger.
“We’re angry that the government is trying to blame workers for its own failure to manage the COVID-19 vaccination rollout both in aged care and across the community,” ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said.
“The government has not been able to deliver on its own strategy, which prioritised aged care workers as the highest priority, and is now using a ‘smoke and mirrors’ game to pin the responsibility on the worker. But as we’ve seen with the latest COVID outbreak in NSW, the vaccine roll-out in privately-run aged care facilities is not a game. It is completely serious.”
Ms Butler said the government’s plan for aged care vaccinations has done nothing but increase confusion and, now for relatives of aged care residents in NSW, alarm.
“Workers are still not guaranteed access to vaccines, whether on or off-site and there’s insufficient support or special leave provisions to manage possible side-effects or reactions and the need to take time off.”
Providers and unions are arguing that the only way to improve vaccine pick up is to make it easy for workers, not to shame them.
They are demanding that the Morrison government implement the five following principles into a rollout strategy that will support aged care workers to be vaccinated quickly and safely using the Pfizer vaccine only. These include:
- Ensuring client, resident and worker safety
- Government funded workplace vaccination and prioritised access to vaccination providers near workplaces
- Paid leave to access vaccinations and recover from effects or reactions if needed
- Targeted vaccine education and communication
- Transparency and accountability on vaccine data and supply
“The government must finally listen to workers, their unions and providers – and act on our recommendations,” Ms Butler said.