Legislative Council: Wednesday, June 28, 2023


COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccinations

The Hon. S.L. GAME (14:57): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Attorney-General, representing the Minister for Health and Wellbeing, on the COVID-19 vaccine mandates for SA Health workers.

Leave granted.

The Hon. S.L. GAME: It has been brought to my attention that an SA Health healthcare worker who is not compliant with the SA Health COVID-19 vaccine mandate policy is currently on leave with full pay while she is disputing the legality of the policy. She is on forced leave that was initially unpaid but became paid as of 19 December 2022, and she has been paid in full every fortnight since. She is being paid a gross amount of $1,976 plus $207.56 superannuation per fortnight.

It has also been brought to my attention that nearly 150 nurses, doctors and allied health professionals have come together to dispute the continued requirement to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to work in the public healthcare system. It is my understanding that a portion of these 150 workers are also on leave with full pay. My questions to the Attorney-General, representing the Minister for Health and Wellbeing, are:

1. As of today's date, how many SA Health healthcare workers are on leave with pay while disputing the legality of workplace COVID-19 vaccine mandates?

2. How much in total per fortnight is the government paying unvaccinated SA Health healthcare workers to stay home while the legality of the workplace COVID-19 vaccine mandates is being disputed?

3. Why would the government rather spend this money paying healthy healthcare workers to stay at home when they could instead put those workers back to work, especially as we have a worker shortage at a crisis level? The COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to not stop transmission. The workers can take daily RAT tests and wear full personal protective equipment.

4. What does the government consider more of a public health risk: highly qualified, experienced and healthy unvaccinated workers allowed back to work or crisis levels of ramping and understaffing?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:59): I thank the honourable member for her questions. I am happy to see if any of the figures are available to which she refers, but I have to say I, as the former government did, and as ministers in the former government and as ministers in this government do, place great stead in the professionalism and health advice of those who helped give the advice that saw us, compared to many jurisdictions around the world, relatively safe during the global pandemic.