Healthcare workers who were forced to leave their employment when they declined Covid vaccinations say it’s time to drop the mandates and let them get back to their jobs.
Peaceful protests have been taking place this week at four major public hospitals located in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria. These states still have injection mandates in place for healthcare workers, as well as for people who work in aged care homes or disability support services.
The protests unite some 1,600 healthcare workers across the country who have been brought together by Monica Smit, founder of Reignite Democracy Australia, in a bid to challenge the mandates.
One of the nurses demonstrating outside the emergency department at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, who had more than 35 years’ experience said:
‘I’m heartbroken that I haven’t been able to work for over a year because of my unvaccinated status. I was dismissed from my job. I’m willing and able and capable…. I’m here to help.’
At the Royal Melbourne Hospital on the first day of the demonstrations, protesters brought with them 392 years of combined nursing experience, Smit noted.
One vaccine-free nurse who had lost her job said:
‘[I] can go to a hospital and visit someone. I can go to a nursing home and visit my aunt. But I can’t go and work in a nursing home or work in a hospital. Where is the science behind that?’
While the mandates were originally intended to protect patients, the logic behind that decision must be questioned, given that none of the three genetic vaccines were tested in their clinical trials for their ability to prevent transmission of the virus.
Famously in early October, Rob Roos, Member of the European Parliament, asked a question that made the world aware that Pfizer’s clinical trials had not tested for transmission. In fact, the dearth of information on transmission for all three vaccine clinical trials has been in plain sight ever since government regulatory bodies, such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), published public assessment reports on the vaccines at the start of the rollout. These documents either report that the effect on transmission was not evaluated (Pfizer and Astra Zeneca) or do not mention transmission (Moderna).
And now that many of us have experienced Covid in the real world, scientific studies are not needed to know that people who have been vaccinated, even with multiple shots, can catch and spread the disease.
If the vaccines do not prevent transmission, then why do health workers have to have them?
Other countries have been managing their health services without mandating the Covid injections. In the UK, staff in the National Health Service (NHS) were told they would be mandated for vaccination from April 1, but this was dropped.
One of the factors behind abandoning the NHS mandates was a protest group called NHS100k which made clear to Boris Johnson and his government that between 80,000 and 100,000 healthcare workers were likely to quit their jobs if the mandates were brought in.
Johnson realised that the NHS simply could not run with that reduction in staff numbers.
Here in Australia, we hear reports of health services that are stretched, and in Victoria there was a crisis in triple zero call response times earlier this year. A staffing shortage of nurses seems evident in Victoria, at least, which is running large billboard advertisements in NSW, trying to attract nurses to the state.
Allowing unvaccinated staff to return to work would surely be beneficial, Smit argues.
‘I wonder, has anyone asked the patients what they want? Has anyone asked a mother whose child is choking if she would prefer an unvaccinated paramedic in five minutes or a vaccinated paramedic in one hour? Or a mother whose son is crying with a broken arm in the emergency ward if she’d rather see an unvaccinated doctor sooner?’
She says a policy that was allegedly put in place to protect people’s health is having the opposite effect, and damaging Australia’s entire health system.
Smit has carried out a survey on her website. So far, 29,243 people have responded and 27,568 of them said they wanted private and public hospitals to allow unvaccinated workers to come back to work. A similar number said they would be happy to be treated by a person who had not had the shots. Of course, many followers of her website are pro-choice. Smit said:
‘The latest country to jettison the vaccine mandates for all health workers is Italy. Why can’t Australia follow suit? It is time to restore some sanity. Abolish the vaccine mandates and reinstate these healthcare workers so they can continue to save lives.’
Only a fraction of the 1,600 have been able to attend the protests, because for people who have been jobless for months, the cost of getting to a capital city can be prohibitive.
One of the healthcare workers pointed out that after more than year with no income, and a young family to feed, attendance was just not possible. They added that they wished there was someone who could stand in for them because the ‘real numbers’ needed to be represented.
Sadly, some irrevocable damage has already been done. Not every health worker who has been forced out of employment plans to return. Laine Jolly, a nurse with 14 years of experience, including in critical care, was so horrified by the abandonment of medical ethics inherent in any vaccine mandates that she has already handed back her nurse’s registration to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
In her open letter to Martin Fletcher, the CEO of AHPRA on February 28, 2022, Jolly said:
‘Covid vaccination mandates contravene the protected right of informed consent, which is enshrined in the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights and in medical and nursing codes of conduct and ethics. Failure on the behalf of you and your regulatory colleagues at the various national boards to discern the impropriety of Covid vaccine mandates … is a clear failure in your duty of care to the Australian community, which is the raison d’être of your organisation.’
Others among the 1,600 feel similarly. As Smit says:
‘The Covid vaccine was not in their contract of employment; how were they to know they could spend years of their lives training for a job they love only to lose it for not taking a vaccine that was rushed to market?’
For some of these people, the idea of returning to an employer that they feel betrayed them is just too painful. But they are standing up for the rights of those many colleagues who want to return, to get back to what they were trained to do – saving lives.