Beds and medical services cut as Queensland hospital workers defy COVID-19 vaccination mandate

More than 8 percent of Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service (CQHHS) workers have failed to meet the COVID-19 vaccination mandate, which has forced cuts in surgical, medical and mental health beds.

Queensland Health data obtained by ABC shows that of the 4,620 employees working for the service – which operates Rockhampton, Gladstone, Biloela and Emerald hospitals – 385 workers have not provided evidence of having received two COVID-19 vaccine shots and are not on leave .

About 136 of them have requested a waiver from the mandate, but Queensland Health CEO John Wakefield has made it clear that anyone who has not been vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be allowed to work at a public health facility.

An email from CQHHS Rockhampton’s CEO Kerrie-Anne Frakes to staff said the mandate would have a “temporary operational impact to ensure we are able to safely maintain inpatient treatments”.

“There has been a lot of work done by our team leaders, managers and executives over the last week to ensure secure service continuity,” the email read.

Mrs Frakes said the service would be temporarily required to reduce some surgical, medical and mental beds and balance “a small reduction in staff in emergency and maternity wards”.

“However, we do not believe that these changes will affect the level of care to be provided to our community, nor will it affect the safety of our staff,” she said.

Suspended on full pay

Of the 108,000 employees at Queensland Hospital and Health Services, 3,830 – or 3.54 percent – have not provided evidence of a COVID-19 vaccination and are not on leave.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said this week that around 4,000 health workers in Queensland who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 would be sent demonstration notices and be suspended with full pay.

The state is currently served by 16 hospital and health services, independent statutory bodies responsible for providing public health services in their area.

The South West Hospital and Health Service (SWHHS) – which houses the Roma, St George, Cunnamulla and Charleville hospitals – has the highest percentage of non-compliant staff, with 10.78% of the workforce, or 110 employees , out of a total of 1,020.

Other hospital and health services with high numbers of workers not vaccinated against COVID-19 include Central West (6.2 percent), Sunshine Coast (5.33 percent), Mackay (5.07 percent), Wide Bay (4 , 42 percent) and the Gold Coast (4.07 percent).

In terms of the large number, 561 employees at Metro North Hospital and Health Service (MNHHS) – which includes the Royal Brisbane and Women’s, The Prince Charles, Redcliffe, Caboolture and Kilcoy hospitals – have failed to comply with the Health Directive, equivalent to 2.45 percent of the workforce.

The proportion of employees at Metro Syd Hospital and the Health Service who have not complied with this is slightly higher by 2.56 per cent (459 workers).

On the Gold Coast, 488 workers have not provided evidence of COVID-19 vaccination and are not currently on leave.

Health vaccination mandate

Deputy Chief Health Officer Peter Aitken said Queensland Health was in the process of contacting unvaccinated healthcare professionals.

“All of these employees are in the process of being contacted and some of them are in the exemption process and are being processed,” he said.

“If they have not been contacted directly, it is best to talk to the line managers directly.”

He said workers who submitted exemption requests and had not yet been contacted would receive full pay for this week.

“Then the process will continue and it will be individually based, depending on their circumstances,” said Dr. Aitken.

But, he warned, this scheme was only for a week.

“It’s only for a week, so I would encourage them to follow up,” said Dr. Aitken.

Total number of employees

Unvaccinated staff not on leave

Percentage of staff

Total Queensland Health

114,069

4,226

All Hospital and Health Services (HHS)

108,122

3,830

3.54%

Cairns and Hinterland HHS

7,142

219

3.06%

Central Queensland HHS

4,620

385

8.33%

Central West HHS

462

29

6.28%

Child Health Queensland

5,278

102

1.93%

Darling Downs HHS

6,586

222

3.37%

Gold Coast HHS

11,984 th most common

488

4.07%

Mackay HHS

3,351

170

5.07%

Metro Nord HHS

22,826 th most common

561

2.46%

Metro Syd HHS

17,947 th most common

459

2.56%

Northwest HHS

884

35

3.96%

Southwestern HHS

1,020

110

10.78%

Sunshine Coast HHS

8,702

464

5.33%

Torres and Cape HHS

1,255

47

3.74%

Townsville HHS

7,042

169

2.4%

West Moreton HHS

4,998

170

3.4%

Wide Bay HHS

4,596

203

4.42%

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