Saturday, December 4

Fears that the disabled will be left without essential care after the term of office

Some disabled people fear being left without critical help when the COVID-19 vaccine mandate takes effect next week for all home care and support workers.

A mother pushes her adult daughter through a mall in a wheelchair.

Caregivers have until November 15 to allow at least their first dose of vaccine.
Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Mike Hamill, a disabled man from Invercargill, spent nearly a year searching for the two right caregivers.

He has three in total, who attend him 24 hours a day from his home.

But now he is preparing for a difficult farewell.

Two of your caregivers will not receive the vaccine because it goes against their cultural beliefs.

“They have been crying, absolutely heartbroken. Can you imagine what it’s like to lose a caregiver you’ve had for 12-15 months? They know my needs, they can understand me, other caregivers can’t.”

Hamill is fully vaccinated and feels the government mandate has placed an unnecessary burden on both him and the workers who care for him.

“Being independent gives me options, this mandate does not,” he said.

All home care and aid workers had early access to the vaccine in the first part of the government launch this year.

The hard, no jab, no work rule goes into effect next week.

All healthcare workers have until the end of Monday, November 15 to receive at least their first dose.

Disability Support Network CEO Peter Reynolds said many employers weren’t sure what was going to happen Tuesday.

“Our industry is the kind of place where there are no alternative tasks to put people in. Either they are working to support a disabled person or not,” he said.

Reynolds said the network had been talking to employers and estimated that between 3 and 15 percent of the sector were not vaccinated, but it was still hard to tell.

That number could still amount to thousands of workers outside the sector, and he said the consequences were too dire.

“A person who acts as a support worker for a disabled person in their home who cannot work after the 15th is an extra person. In the labor shortage we are experiencing, the chances that disabled people will not receive the support they need is just too great. “

HealthCareNZ is one of the largest nursing and disability services and has a staff vaccination rate similar to that of the country, said Executive Director Josephine Gagan.

That would mean that of the 6,000 care workers nationwide, roughly 600 can go unvaccinated and lose their jobs.

Gagan said the industry was trying to do everything it could to support its workers.

“There is a lot of confusing and contradictory information. For our staff, it has been quite distressing. But the key for us is to provide them with support and understanding, and to provide as much accurate and scientific information that we have access to.” she said.

The lack of staff in the care sector is a big problem and Disability Connect President Colleen Brown is concerned about the impact the mandate will have on people with disabilities.

“I think we are going to be dealing with this for a few months,” he said. “But when people don’t get the support they need, I don’t know where they are going to go.”

She said that while she may understand that vaccination was a personal decision, the stakes were too high for disabled people.

“The disability industry cannot be the slaughtered lamb here. We cannot have people who are incredibly vulnerable people just accepting anyone if they are not taking all the precautions that will keep people safe.”

Henrietta Bollinger says disabled people like her have breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Bollinger’s caretakers have been vaccinated for some time, but the mandate certainly helps.

“I wanted to remove some of that administrative responsibility for my shudders. I think having the option to choose who comes into your space and does that work for you. There are people in your house and that’s a pretty intimate space,” he said. said.

Disability Assembly Executive Director Prudence Walker said the mandate had been very well received by many disabled people.

“Many disabled people are at increased risk if they contract Covid-19 and this measure is seen as prioritizing the lives of disabled people.”

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