Catholic Health Australia pleads with govt for disability support worker vaccinations

Vials of Covid-19 vaccines. Photo; Unsplash/file photo.

By TILEAH DOBSON

New South Wales continues to make strides in the fight against Covid-19, with the state today reaching the goal of 80 percent of residents aged 16 years and over vaccinated with their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The state recorded 1,259 new locally acquired cases in the last 24 hours to 8pm last night, with two cases from overseas. The state’s total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic now stands at 46,818.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was thrilled to announce the state’s vaccination achievement, hailing the results on social media and in a media conference this morning.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announces today’s vaccination milestone. Image: @GladysB/Twitter.

“Pleasingly today our state hits the milestone of 80 percent first dose vaccinations. An incredible milestone, given the journey we’ve all been on and I can’t thank the community enough for responding in such a positive way for our calls to get vaccinated,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Although other restrictions will remain in place, it was announced today that the curfew imposed in LGAs of concern will be lifted tonight. However, the premier warns residents to remain vigilant.

“To keep your family safe, please follow the health orders. Don’t give up, don’t be complacent,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Despite reaching the 80 percent first dose and close to 50 percent fully vaccinated rates, not all frontline health workers are protected. Documents submitted to state parliament revealed more than 13,000 NSW Health staff are completely unvaccinated.

The federal government had made it compulsory for residential aged care workers to get their first doses by the middle of this month, while all NSW health care workers have until the month’s end. However, disability support workers have been left behind in the vaccine race.

The latest Covid-19 case and vaccination statistics in NSW. Image: NSW Health.

Catholic Health Australia (CHA) Director of Mission and Strategy, Rebecca Burdick Davies, has spoken out, stating that disability support workers are just as important.

“If mandatory vaccination is good enough for residential aged care and health care workers, then surely it must be good enough for disability support workers,” Ms Burdick Davies said.

Catholic Health Australia has called for Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Linda Reynolds to issue a directive for a vaccination program similar to residential aged care workers.

“We have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in our community and we can start by requiring our staff to be vaccinated. These workers are going into people’s homes and moving around the community – it is part of their job description. Their place of work is the community and we have learned that the Delta variant spreads rapidly via mobile workforces,” Ms Burdick Davies said.

Considering how NSW has acquired more Covid-19 vaccines, Ms Burdick Davies said there was no reason why the mandate could not be established.

“Every day we delay is another day where people living with a disability and the people that care for them are exposed to unnecessary risk. Our members are already organising the vaccination of staff but for the minority who are hesitating for whatever reason, that hard push from the government will draw a line in the sand,” she said.

Catholic Health Australia is a large grouping of hospitals, aged and community care services, handling 10 percent of hospital and aged care services in Australia. Image: Catholic Health Care Australia.

CEO of CatholicCare Sydney Mark Phillips and CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW Jack de Groot have also voiced their support for the initiative.

“As vaccination levels rise and we open up our communities, it will be increasingly difficult to protect vulnerable clients and our own staff in the way that we should if we have unvaccinated workers,” Mr Phillips said.

“A government mandate for vaccinations for our workers will assist us to put in place the protections that our clients, our staff and the community expect.”

Mr de Groot said: “Vinnies is committed to the care and well-being of some of our community’s most forgotten and hidden people. The lives of those Australians living with disability matter. Their wellbeing requires a workforce that is healthy, and which strives every day to make a real difference to those living with disability.”

Tileah Dobson is the news editor of the Sydney Sentinel.