Fórsa has received confirmation that over 90% of healthcare staff have now received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, as media reports emerged that those who refuse to be vaccinated face redeployment under proposals currently being examined by the HSE.
However, Fórsa official Chris Cully said the issue of possible redeployment has not yet been raised in discussions with the HSE. “The level of vaccine take-up can’t be accurately determined until all of the 300,000 people classified as healthcare workers have been offered a vaccine.
“So far the HSE can’t say how many have refused a vaccine, but they have indicated to health unions that they will need to look at mandatory risk assessment once they have the necessary data,” she said.
Media reports this week said while are no plans to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for healthcare staff, proposals being finalised would see those who fail to confirm they are vaccinated moved out of patient contact, depending on the outcome of a risk assessment. A possible exception to this would be when unvaccinated workers can’t be replaced due to staff shortages or specialised qualifications.
Fórsa has previously reported that guidance from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has said that employers of workers who refuse Covid-19 vaccinations should undertake a risk assessment in cases where the staff member could be exposed to Covid-19 in the workplace.
In February HSE chief Paul Reid said health staff who declined a vaccine would have to be redeployed if they posed a risk to patients.
HSA guidance says employers may have “no option” but to redeploy unvaccinated staff if they are “not safe to perform certain work tasks.”
Existing health and safety regulations require employers to offer vaccinations, if they’re available, when there is a risk to employees from working with a biological agent. The HSA updated its guidance to include Covid-19, which is defined as a biological agent.
Fórsa officials say such instances are likely to be extremely rare, and that an agreed and reasonable approach is available.
The union’s head of health, Éamonn Donnelly, has said there is an acceptance among the workforce that it was unsustainable for people to work in frontline Covid roles if they hadn’t had a vaccine.
“But we will need to ensure that risk assessments are conducted properly, and by qualified people, and we expect an open door for dialogue about any staff reassignments that might arise,” he said.
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