The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association is providing support and advice to any members seeking information regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Ensure you’re covered at work by joining the NSWNMA.
The Commonwealth Department of Health website contains detailed guidance for health sector workers and is updated regularly.
If members are concerned their employer is not following these guidelines, the NSWNMA can provide assistance to ensure appropriate measures are in place. Contact us.
Some employers offering leave assistance for COVID-19
You can request your employer to provide their relevant COVID-19 leave policy. If you need further assistance, contact the Association.
Mandatory vaccination requirements – 30 Sep
The Minister of Health signed off on this Public Health Order (PHO) on 26 August 2021.
The terms of the PHO now include all those working in what we would know as the NSW Health Service (including the Ambulance Service). It also includes all private health facilities as defined in the Private Health Facilities Act 2007 (i.e. private health facility means premises at which any person is admitted, provided with medical, surgical or other prescribed treatment and then discharged, or premises at which a person is provided with prescribed services or treatments).
It also can include into the future any other person or type of health care work that the NSW Chief Health Officer may identify.
The PHO defines work as including: students on a student placement; volunteers; work done under a contract of service, including VMOs.
Those currently working in the above services will need to be able to demonstrate that they have had at least one COVID-19 vaccination by 30 September 2021 and have received their second dose by 30 November 2021. Evidence of vaccination compliance or a medical exemption must be provided to your employer. If not, workers will not be permitted to enter and work at the facility.
The Association has and continues to make representations to the NSW Ministry of Health and NSW Government in relation to issues with access to vaccines and concerns regarding vaccine hesitancy. We have also raised concerns regarding the potential loss of a vital component of the workforce.
An exemption is possible on medical grounds, using this form approved by the NSW Chief Health Officer.
The PHO also requires employers to take all reasonable steps to ensure compliance by their workers.
Mandatory vaccination requirements for workers in LGAs of concern – 19 Sep
There are requirements for authorised workers in Local Government Areas (LGA) of concern to receive their first vaccination prior to the 30 September.
If you live in an LGA of concern but work in another LGA, you will be required to have had your first COVID-19 vaccine by 19 September in order to attend work.
As of Saturday, 28 August, workers are also required to apply for a permit to travel to/from work.
An exemption will be granted if the worker is unable, due to a medical contraindication, to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and presents a medical contraindication certificate.
The Minister may, in writing and subject to conditions the Minister considers appropriate, exempt a person or class of persons from the operation of this Order if the Minister is satisfied it is necessary to protect the health and well-being of persons.
Permits for health workers living or working in affected LGAs
Essential workers who live in affected LGAs or travel to work in an affected LGA will now require a permit from Service NSW:
- From Saturday, 28 August, authorised workers from the LGAs of concern are required to carry a permit from Service NSW declaring that they are an authorised worker and cannot work from home
- From Saturday, 28 August, anyone entering an LGA of concern for the purposes of work must carry a worker permit issued by Service NSW.
End to surveillance testing
Members living in Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland and Fairfield LGA are no longer required to undergo COVID-19 routine testing if working outside your LGA.
- From 12.01am Monday, 23 August, workers from the Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland and Fairfield LGAs no longer have to be tested for COVID-19 in the previous 72 hours to work outside their LGA.
Non-urgent elective surgery suspension
With the NSW government’s suspension of some non-urgent elective surgery from 23 August, things are changing rapidly and it is important you know your rights. Remember, your union is here to support you and your colleagues.
These changes mean your employer may ask you to:
- Work different hours to normal
- Work in different departments
- Support the Local Health District
- Undertake additional education and training
- Volunteer to help in NSW Health’s vaccine hubs or Special Health Accommodation
Your employer must comply with your enterprise agreement. They are required to maintain a viable workforce and so there is no suggestion that you will be sent home without pay. You also cannot be forced to take leave (except in accordance with your enterprise agreement). This may change, depending on government directives.
Priority Pfizer access
Authorised workers between the age of 16 – 39 who live within one of the 12 local government areas (LGA) of concern, can access priority Pfizer vaccination appointments.
These areas include: Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Paramatta, Bayside, Burwood, Strathfield local government areas (click this link for a full list of suburbs) or the Penrith suburbs of Caddens, Claremont Meadows, Colyton, Erskine Park, Kemps Creek, Kingswood, Mount Vernon, North St Marys, Orchard Hills, Oxley Park, St Clair and St Marys.
What you need to do:
Go to the NSW Government website: www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/health-and-wellbeing/covid-19-vaccination-nsw/authorised-worker-priority-appointments and follow the instructions provided.
The following clinics are participating:
- NSW Health Vaccination Centre, Sydney Olympic Park
- Qudos Bank Arena NSW Health Vaccination Centre
- South Western Sydney Vaccination Centre
- Prairiewood Vaccination clinic
- Nepean Vaccination clinic
- St George Vaccination clinic
The vaccine is free and you do not need a Medicare card to make an appointment. This invitation is only for you and cannot be forwarded on to anyone else.
You will need to make your second appointment when booking. The booking system will set it at the appropriate interval.
On the day of your vaccination you will need to bring photo ID as well as proof of your place of work. If you do not bring both of these, you may not be able to proceed for your vaccination.
Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice on the AstraZeneca
‘Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome’ (TTS) is a newly described serious condition, with unusual blood clots in the brain (cerebral venous sinus thrombosis) or in other parts of the body, associated with low platelet levels and can cause serious long term disability or death.
The evidence that connects TTS to receipt of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been reviewed by ATAGI and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and subsequently, ATAGI released a revised recommendation that the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) as the preferred vaccine for those aged 16 to under 60 years. This updates the previous preferential recommendation for Comirnaty over COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca in those aged 16 to under 50 years.
The ATAGI statement (found here) provides further information on the key considerations. Amongst these were the following:
- TTS remains an extremely rare event among vaccine recipients. Experience in Europe has shown approximately 4 – 6 people in every one million people develop TTS in the 4-20 days after the first dose of vaccine. However higher rates have been reported in some countries, and among younger people. One person in Australia developed the syndrome after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.
- While Australia currently has very low or no community transmission of COVID-19, this could change. The risk of serious disease and death in Australia remains, even as border controls and other measures continue.
- The individual benefit-to-risk balance of vaccination with COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca in Australia varies with age. The risk of ongoing health issues and death from COVID-19 is highest in older age groups, particularly rising from 50 years of age. By comparison, the rate, and so possibility of disability and death from TTS may be higher in younger people.
ATAGI has further recommended that:
- The AstraZeneca vaccine should only be used in adults aged under 60 where the benefits clearly outweigh the risk for that individual and the person has made an informed decision based on an understanding of the risks and benefits.
- People who have had the first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca without any serious adverse effects can be given the second dose, including adults under 60 years.
The Pfizer vaccine will continue to be administered as planned at NSW Health clinics.
Information about vaccinations completed by NSW Health clinics is updated daily at this link (vaccination of category 1a and 1b is not reported separately).
Is the AstraZeneca vaccine safe?
Yes. The individual benefit-to-risk balance of vaccination with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine varies with age. This balance is based on factors including the increased risk of complications from COVID-19 with increasing age and the potential lower risk of this very rare, but serious, adverse event with increasing age. ATAGI has recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine remains safe to be given to people aged 60 years and over.
I have had my first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, what do I do now?
If you have had your first vaccine dose without this side effect or other serious adverse effects, you should receive your second dose as planned.
What if I am worried about side effects?
If you have recently had your first vaccine dose and are experiencing any side effects that you are worried about, see your doctor.
I’m booked in for my first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, what do I do?
If you are an adult aged under 60 years, you should only receive a first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine where the benefit of receiving the vaccine clearly outweighs the risk in your individual circumstance. You may wish to discuss your individual benefit-to-risk balance with your doctor.
Generally, if you have not already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, then the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is preferred in adults aged under 60 years.
If you are 60 years of age or older, you can still receive your AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
Administration of COVID-19 vaccine
To access FAQs on administering COVID-19 vaccines, click here.
Government guarantee to private hospital sector
Thanks to ongoing pressure from unions and employers, on 31 March 2020, the Australian Government announced a partnership with the private health sector to secure 30,000 hospital beds and 105,000 nurses and staff.
The federal government agreed to contribute 50% towards activity funding, provided private providers retain their workforce. For further detail on the guarantee, refer to this document.
The Commonwealth offered agreements to all 657 private and not-for-profit hospitals to ensure their viability, in return for maintenance and capacity during the COVID-19 response.
In the first instance, enquire with your employer whether it has published a policy in relation to COVID-19 and self-isolation. You may also be able to access such a policy on your employer’s intranet if it has one.
If you’re directed not to attend work because you have COVID-19, are sick and/or exhibiting flu-like symptoms, then generally you will be required to take personal leave or sick leave. If you’ve run out of personal leave or sick leave then you should be able to access your other paid leave entitlements.
Leave entitlements during self-isolation
If you’ve been directed not to attend work due to self-isolation requirements then your employee entitlements will depend on your employer’s policy and the provisions of your award or enterprise agreement (see links to Industrial Instruments below).
Most private hospital nurses and midwives are covered by an enterprise agreement. Check it for relevant leave provisions, including personal/carer’s leave, and whether there are any stand down provisions that apply. If you require assistance identifying or interpreting your enterprise agreement then we’re here to help. You can contact us using this web form.
If you’re employed under the Nurses Award 2010 (only those without an enterprise agreement) and are required to self-isolate then it is reasonable for your employer to direct you onto personal/carer’s leave because you’re not able to work. If you’ve run out of personal/carer’s leave then you should be able to access other forms of paid leave that you have accrued.
Casual employees generally do not have the leave entitlements available to them that permanent employees have. If you’re a casual employee and required to self-isolate then your employer should consider standing you down on pay for any rostered shifts, although you are unlikely to have a legal right to the payment of wages for this time. Particular regard should be given by your employer to the length of your employment and whether you work on a regular and systematic basis.
If your employer has directed you not to attend work for reasons related to COVID-19 and you have not been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or returned from overseas travel, then please contact NSWNMA for assistance.
Unfortunately employees in the private sector are not automatically entitled to the 20 days special leave made available by the NSW Government to its employees.
The above is intended as general information only and the advice in relation to each case will depend on its particular circumstances.
The NSWNMA will continue to provide further updates for members as we receive them. Contact us here.
Current Industrial Instruments