NEWS

Possible health system gaps fuel concern

Authorities fear uphill battle to fill void left by health staff that refuse mandatory vaccination

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With the submission on Wednesday of the legislative amendment introducing compulsory vaccination for health and care workers, the reaction of public hospital employees is considered an extremely critical parameter for the national health system’s efficiency at this crucial juncture of the pandemic.

Given the increased pressure that the health system is expected to come under by the fall, the number of workers who insist on refusing compulsory vaccination could be instrumental to its ability to cope.

According to the Health Ministry, 26,000 hospital staff had not been vaccinated until a week ago, about half of them nursing staff. Health workers themselves estimate that the number of those who have not been vaccinated and those who have not acquired immunity by contracting the virus is around 10,000.

In any case, it is clear that if unvaccinated health workers are not persuaded to get inoculated by September 1 and are thus forced to take unpaid leave, they will leave behind a gap that can hardly be filled by fast-tracked three-month contracts.

“Some who were skeptical or afraid will go get vaccinated now. However, the biggest trend at the moment seems to be angry health workers who say that they will not get the vaccine and do not care about the consequences,” the president of the Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Employees, Michalis Yiannakos, said in comments to Kathimerini.

“We believe that mandatory vaccinations are a mistake on the part of the government and may even slow down the vaccination program,” he added, saying that deniers are already citing the fact that doctors and nurses are being forced to get vaccinated as an argument against the shots.

“We say everyone should be vaccinated, but people need to be convinced,” he said, adding that he believes the relevant provisions “cannot stand up in court.” 

The amendment submitted to Parliament on Wednesday stipulates that healthcare professionals will be placed on unpaid leave and also lose their social security if they do not get vaccinated against Covid-19. The unpaid leave will last, according to the government, “as long as the pandemic lasts.”

The legislation will take effect as of August 16 for workers at nursing homes and from September 1 for staff at hospitals and other healthcare facilities.