Mandatory vaccines for health staff being looked at by Cabinet
Compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations for health and social services staff are being considered by the Cabinet, the health minister revealed yesterday.
Kim Wilson was speaking as England brought in tough new rules on vaccination for NHS staff designed to protect patients and the vulnerable.
Ms Wilson confirmed similar regulations were being looked at in Bermuda.
She said: “Those are discussions that we are having at a Cabinet level and at a caucus level.
“What has been the position heretofore is that vaccines are a matter of choice and that you have the option to have a vaccine.
“You can speak to a physician, which we are encouraging people to do if in doubt.”
Ms Wilson added: “We have been supplied with a quite sufficient supply of vaccines from the UK.
“And we will continue to provide that vaccine free of charge to persons who wish to avail themselves of that.
“I would be mindful of persons making sure that they … are provided with the opportunity to have the vaccine.”
Ms Wilson admitted that the pandemic had delayed the introduction of universal healthcare, but denied the lack of a timetable for its introduction was a failure of strategic leadership by the Government.
She insisted: “No, I think a failure of strategic leadership is just to throw up your hands and do nothing and we are doing something.”
Ms Wilson said: “I think it is more important not only to manage expectations, but also to recognise that in any country that has developed universal healthcare it does not take place overnight.
“In fact some countries have taken – if you look at the Bahamas and Singapore for example – multiple years for them to provide the provision of universal healthcare. We can’t just turn on a switch.
“If we rush it we may mess up and that is certainly not what we want to do, particularly when we are committed to a patient-centred approach.”
She added that a time frame for the introduction of universal healthcare scheme was “a question I can’t answer”.
Ms Wilson said: “I can say in the next year as we develop our road map you can expect to hear more about the strategy that will be developing utilising technology. You will be hearing more about the strategy that will be developed considering the patient pathways and the integration of our healthcare system.
“That is critically important so that we can see where the gaps are in the services.
“No, we didn’t have a strategic time of how long. We have looked at what other jurisdictions have done and how long it has taken them to implement universal healthcare.”
Ms Wilson added that she did not expect the planned “merging” of health administrations to lead to job losses.
Ms Wilson said: “When you are making it more efficient, it doesn’t necessarily equate to having to cut jobs.”
But she admitted she could not guarantee there would be no health sector job cuts.
Ms Wilson said: “I can’t guarantee that I am going to be here tomorrow, so I not going to make that kind of guarantee.
“But what I can guarantee is that the Government remains committed to the development of universal healthcare.”
Ms Wilson added that she expected Covid-19 to be a permanent problem for the island.
She said: “Unfortunately, it looks like that’s going to be the case.
“The science and the evidence suggests that, perhaps, in three years time … the pandemics will shift to an epidemic mode and therefore it will be part of it – it may be a seasonal issue, like we do with the flu.
“But it is something that looks like, regrettably, by all accounts, that we are here to live with that pandemic.”