Private hospital groups Mediclinic and Life Healthcare have introduced COVID-19 vaccination policies for staff and service providers, joining an increasing number of JSE-listed companies that have followed the lead of life and health insurer Discovery.
While the SA Human Rights Commission said that a law mandating vaccination would not be at odds with the constitution, the government has stopped short of making vaccination compulsory for fear of pushback, with unions opposed to compulsory immunisation.
Business Day reports that the government is banking on shoring up flagging demand for vaccines through mass drives, such as the Vooma campaign launched last weekend, and moves by the private sector to require inoculation for entry into establishments, mass events or in the workplace.
Mediclinic’s policy, which came into effect on October 1, requires everyone to be fully vaccinated by February 2022. Mediclinic’s mandatory vaccination policy will initially apply only to its SA and Namibian operations and to employees, service providers and healthcare professionals, such as doctors, who had rooms and admitting privileges at Mediclinic.
“We believe it is the right thing to do, and we think legislation forces us to do it,” said Mediclinic Southern Africa CEO Koert Pretorius. The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to ensure they provide a safe work environment. An exemption policy is being finalised to take account of people who had reasonable grounds for not getting inoculated.
Pretorius said the hospital group had an ethical and moral obligation as a healthcare provider to provide a safe environment for staff and patients. “We don’t want people to come to our hospitals and be exposed to an unnecessary risk to something that can be easily managed,” he said.
Life Healthcare told staff last week its compulsory vaccination policy would require all head office employees to be vaccinated by 1 December, the first step in a phased plan aiming to have all staff vaccinated by mid-2022. The next step will be compulsory vaccinations for its SA hospitals, followed by its UK and European businesses.
“We believe the scientific evidence is absolutely clear: vaccinated people are far less likely to infect others, end up in ICU or high care, or die,” said Life Healthcare CEO Peter Wharton-Hood.
In a letter sent to doctors last week, Life Healthcare said a fully vaccinated workforce was in the best interest of the safety of employees, doctors and the country, and it had consulted extensively with legal advisers and believed a compulsory vaccination policy was acceptable.
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