Rural emergency services determine impact of vaccine mandate

6:10 pm on 5 November 2021

It is too early to tell as to what impact the vaccination mandate for high risk health workers will have on emergency services in rural Canterbury.

Close up of a St John ambulance on a residential street.

File photo. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

St Johns is in the process of determining whether their staff and volunteers have been vaccinated after the government moved a vaccination mandate for high-risk workers in the health and disability sector last month.

The Health Order stipulates that workers must get their first dose by 15 November and will need to be fully vaccinated by 1 January 2022.

St John people and organisational strategy deputy chief executive Emma Butler said it was committed to working through the impact of the order on the employment of people who remain unvaccinated after the specified dates.

"St John is confident it can continue to deliver and maintain ambulance services to meet demand throughout the Covid-19 delta outbreak and our contingency planning supports that," she said.

There are 599 St John volunteer ambulance officers in the Canterbury region, including 149 in the Ashburton district.

St John said its employment relations and legal teams were working through the detail to understand how it may apply to employees and volunteers who are not directly subject to the order.

"Part of this process is understanding the vaccination status of those people, which we are still currently determining."

It is a similar case with Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ).

There are about 13,000 personnel in operational and community based FENZ roles which are covered by the order, including volunteers.

"Unions and associations are working with us and we will continue to keep our people updated as we work through the implications of this mandate," national commander Kerry Gregory said.

"Throughout the pandemic we have always encouraged our people to get vaccinated."

FENZ confirmed the order applied to any roles where a person is within two metres of a health practitioner, providing health services to the public for more than 15 minutes.

It also applies if workers require contact with children and school pupils, Gregory said.

Ashburton FENZ chief Alan Burgess said the issue of the mandafe had been vigirously discussed during meetings within the wider organisation but it was unclear what impact it would have locally.

There are about 735 operational personnel within the FENZ Mid-South branch which covers Timaru, Ashburton and the inner districts.

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Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

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