Queensland hospitals vaccine mandate to be scrapped

Healthcare workers without the COVID-19 vaccination will return to Queensland hospitals as the government begins consultation to scrap a pandemic-enforced rule.

Health Minister Shannon Fentiman said the decision to enforce COVID-19 vaccination requirements for Queensland Health and Queensland Ambulance staff no longer applies due to high jab rates and natural immunity in the community.

The decision to scrap the rule was made by Chief Health Officer John Gerrard, with some 1200 workers, or one per cent of health staff, stood down from the directive during the pandemic. 

"When we put this mandate in place back in 2021 there was very good reason for doing so," Ms Fentiman said on Friday.

"We had very low vaccination rates in Queensland and it was about keeping our staff safe, but also keeping the community safe.

"It is now based on the health advice, reasonable for us to look at removing that vaccination mandate."

Ms Fentiman said the risk to patients and staff within hospitals was minimal due to high levels of immunity in the community. 

She said anyone who applied for a job with Queensland Health that was unvaccinated would be treated the same as any other worker. 

The consultation phase to scrap the rule will begin on Monday and last two weeks.

It is expected the employment health directive will be repealed on September 25. 

Mandatory jabs for Queensland nurses and healthcare workers were implemented in 2021. 

Healthcare workers who stood down or had their employment terminated because of the rule could reapply for work and won't be subjected to disciplinary action, Ms Fentiman said.

Department of Health director-general Michael Walsh said the required period to remain away from work following a positive COVID-19 test would drop from seven to five days for health employees as of Friday.

Some 3900 new staff have joined the workforce since the health directive was implemented. 

Mr Walsh said former employees were welcome to reapply for jobs within the health service.

"If someone resigned or someone is terminated because of their decisions in relation to their compliance with the health employment directive, there's no automatic return to work, but there's certainly an ability for them to apply for roles as they come up," he said. 

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