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COVID-19 testing and vaccination for health workers

COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination Requirements (Contact by Health Workers with Cases) Direction

Overview

This Direction only applies to all employees and contractors of a Queensland Hospital and Health Service or the Queensland Ambulance Service.

To protect the health of the community and those working in hospitals, health workers who are at a higher risk of having contact with COVID-positive patients must follow COVID-19 vaccination, testing and mask wearing requirements. These workers are considered relevant employees under this Direction.

Vaccination

Current employees

To continue working as a relevant employee, you must comply with vaccination requirements if you are likely to have direct contact with a COVID-19 patient. This means you must:

  • have received one dose of Pfizer or Astra Zeneca by 31 March; and
  • receive a second dose of Pfizer on or around 21 April or Astra Zeneca on or around 23 June; and
  • have notified the Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive or the Queensland Ambulance Commissioner (or nominated representatives) of your vaccination.

New employees

If you start work after 31 March 2021, you must comply with vaccination requirements if you are likely to have direct contact with a COVID-19 patient. This means you must:

  • have received one dose of Pfizer or Astra Zeneca before starting work; and
  • receive a second dose of Pfizer on or around 3 weeks after your first dose or Astra Zeneca on or around 12 weeks after your first dose; and
  • have notified the Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive or the Queensland Ambulance Commissioner (or nominated representatives) of your vaccination.

If you do not comply with vaccination requirements, direct contact with a COVID-19 patient will only be allowed if:

  • emergency care must be provided immediately
  • there is no other vaccinated employee available who can provide care or transport
  • you must provide services to maintain safe operation of the area where the COVID-19 patient is located.

If you do not comply with vaccination requirements and enter an area where a COVID-19 patient is located, you must:

  • report what happened to the Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive or the Queensland Ambulance Commissioner as soon as possible; and
  • undertake surveillance testing until 14 days have passed since you had contact with the person or entered the area.

If asked by an emergency officer, you must provide evidence that you comply with vaccination requirements.

If you do not comply with vaccination requirements, you can still work in a Queensland Hospital and Health Service or for the Queensland Ambulance Service as long as you do not work as a relevant employee. This means you cannot work in or enter an area with COVID-19 patients.

Testing

Relevant employees who are likely to be in direct contact with a COVID-19 patient must undertake surveillance testing and notify their employer of the test.

This means you must:

  • have a saliva test each shift
  • have a weekly throat and deep nasal swab if you are away from work for 7 days or more. You must continue to be tested until 14 days have passed since you have been at work.
  • have a test when directed by an emergency officer; or
  • continue to undertake surveillance testing if you work as a quarantine facility worker.

If you comply with surveillance testing and do not have COVID-19 symptoms, you do not need to isolate or quarantine while waiting for your result.

If you are not tested, you cannot work until you comply with testing or until 14 days have passed since you were a relevant employee.

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, you must:

  • immediately seek medical attention
  • be tested and isolate until you receive a negative result and have no symptoms
  • follow the requirements in any other public health direction.

Face masks

Relevant employees must wear a P2/N95 mask at all times when working in an area with COVID-19 patients, if a mask and fit testing has been made available.

Record keeping

The Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive and the Queensland Ambulance Commissioner must keep a record of surveillance testing of relevant employees.

For full details read the COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination Requirements (Contact by Health Workers with Cases) Direction.

Questions and Answers about COVID-19 testing and vaccination for health workers

Who is a health worker or a relevant employee?

This Direction applies to all health workers. A health worker is an employee or contractor of a Queensland Hospital and Health Service or the Queensland Ambulance Service. A health worker who fits one of the categories below is a relevant employee and must follow vaccination, testing and mask wearing requirements.

A relevant employee is an employee of a Queensland Hospital and Health Service or the Queensland Ambulance Service, or a contractor whose:

  • role requires (or is likely to have) direct contact with a COVID-19 patient – including clinical and non-clinical roles
  • work location is in an area where COVID-19 patients are treated or accommodated (excluding emergency departments) – for example an infectious diseases ward or intensive care unit
  • role includes work in hotel quarantine with COVID-19 patients
  • role includes entering an area where COVID-19 patients are treated or accommodated – for example cleaners, security or administrative staff
  • role includes transporting a COVID-19 patient by ambulance or aeromedical services – including from hotel quarantine to a hospital.

Who is a contractor that is considered a relevant employee?

A contractor means a person who performs services to a Hospital and Health Service including:

  • contractors and consultants
  • aeromedical retrieval services
  • locum workers
  • visiting medical practitioners
  • authorised practitioners of a contracted VMO
  • workers engaged under an arrangement with an employment agency or workforce labour company.

If you have direct or indirect contact with a COVID-19 patient or work in an area where they are being treated, you will have to follow the rules outlined in this Direction for relevant employees.

Why is mandatory vaccination, testing and face mask wearing required now?

The decision was impacted by several factors, including the increasing threat of COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea, the increasing emergence of virus variants and the recent COVID-19 cluster linked to staff at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Queensland.

Mandatory vaccination, testing and face mask wearing requirements for health workers who may have direct or indirect contact with COVID-19 patients will increase the safety of staff, their families and the community.

Questions about vaccination requirements

What are the vaccination requirements for current employees?

To continue working as a relevant employee, you must comply with vaccination requirements if you are likely to have direct or indirect contact with a COVID-19 patient. This means you must:

  • have received one dose of Pfizer or Astra Zeneca by 31 March; and
  • receive a second dose of Pfizer on or around 21 April or Astra Zeneca on or around 23 June; and
  • have notified the Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive or the Queensland Ambulance Commissioner (or nominated representatives) of your vaccination.

What are the vaccination requirements for new employees?

If you start work as a relevant employee after 31 March 2021, you must comply with vaccination requirements if you are likely to have direct or indirect contact with a COVID-19 patient. This means you must:

  • have received one dose of Pfizer or Astra Zeneca before starting work; and
  • receive a second dose of Pfizer on or around 3 weeks after your first dose or Astra Zeneca on or around 12 weeks after your first dose; and
  • have notified the Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive or the Queensland Ambulance Commissioner (or nominated representatives) of your vaccination.

Can I continue to work if I haven’t received my first dose? / Can I continue to work if I have received my first dose but haven’t had my second dose in the appropriate time?

You may continue to work in a Hospital and Health Service or for the Queensland Ambulance Service as long as you do not work as a relevant employee. This means you cannot work in an area with COVID-19 patients.

The Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive or Queensland Ambulance Service Commissioner will ensure you are temporarily moved to another work unit until you are vaccinated.

If this is not possible, you must discuss this with your line manager and consult with the local Human Resources Team for other options.

What happens if I enter an area where a COVID-19 patient is located and haven’t started the vaccination process?

If you do not comply with vaccination requirements and enter an area where a COVID-19 patient is located, you must:

  • report what happened to the Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive or the Queensland Ambulance Commissioner as soon as possible; and
  • undertake surveillance testing until 14 days have passed since you had contact with the person.

If you do not follow these reporting and testing requirements and continue as a relevant employee, you may be fined.

Do I need to be tested while away from work if I have been vaccinated?

Yes. You must still have a throat or deep nasal swab every 7 days while you are away from work, even if you have been vaccinated for COVID-19. You must continue to be tested until 14 days have passed since you have been at work.

I need to provide evidence I have been vaccinated, how can I do this?

You can use your immunisation history statement as evidence. This is available from the Australian Government through:

For more information see the Australian Government website.

Questions about testing requirements

What if I am already undertaking surveillance testing as a quarantine facility worker?

If you are already undertaking surveillance testing as a quarantine facility worker at a quarantine hotel you can continue to follow those testing requirements.

How do I get tested if I am travelling somewhere that does not have easy access to testing facilities?

Health workers can be tested at a number of locations including:

  • at their work facility when pathology staff are present
  • Queensland Health fever clinics
  • any other private pathology provider.

If you are travelling to a location where testing facilities are not available, talk to your Queensland Health contact to understand what you will need to do.

How do I get tested if I’m travelling interstate?

All states and territories have agreed that health workers will be able to be tested and do not need to quarantine if they have no symptoms.

You should inform your employer before any expected absence (this includes leave and having no rostered shifts). Queensland Health will provide you with the three pathology test forms to be used during your time away, anywhere in Australia.

What does away from work mean?

Away from work includes:

  • planned or unplanned leave
  • finished a scheduled deployment
  • no longer working for a health service (for example you quit, your employment was terminated, or you resigned)
  • casual and part time workers who don’t have a rostered shift for more than 7 days.

Can I visit a residential aged care facility, disability accommodation service or hospital if I am waiting for the result of my surveillance test?

If you are still waiting for your surveillance test results and you do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, you may enter a residential aged care facility, disability accommodation service or hospital.

Will the people I live with have to quarantine/get tested too?

No. People you live with will only have to get tested if they develop COVID-19 symptoms or come into contact with someone who has tested positive.

I thought you could only be tested if you had symptoms?

According to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) there are benefits in testing asymptomatic people who work in environments that have a high risk of COVID-19 transmission. This includes people who provide health care to confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Large-scale testing of asymptomatic people in areas that are not high risk is not supported.

What should I do if I miss my routine test?

If you were unable to have a saliva test for a shift because testing wasn’t available before, during or after your shift, you should let your employer know and you must get a saliva test at your next shift.

If you have not started the vaccination process and are unable to attend testing times for your throat and deep nasal swab that are available onsite, you can visit a fever clinic.

When you’re are attending a Queensland Health COVID-19 testing facility, you should identify yourself as a relevant employee of a Hospital and Health Service or the Queensland Ambulance Service. This will allow you to be tested, even if asymptomatic, and you will be prioritised for testing.

How will I receive my results? How long will it take?

Results are usually available within a couple of days after the test was taken.

If the result is positive, you will receive a call from a public health doctor or nurse who will tell you what to do next.

If the result of your throat and deep nasal swab is negative, you will be contacted by public health clinical support staff, this may be by phone or by SMS.

You will not be notified of the results of your saliva test, unless it is positive.

Can I still go to work while waiting for my test results?

If you do not have COVID-19 symptoms you can keep working while you wait for your test results. You do not have to isolate at home.

If you do have COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, you must isolate until you have received a negative test and have no symptoms.

What happens if I test positive?

If your test is positive, it is important that you isolate from others. If your clinical condition is such that you require hospital care, you will be transferred for isolation in hospital and further care.

If you live with others, they must quarantine.

Find out more on what happens if you test positive to COVID-19.

If I have to quarantine while I wait for my results, will I still be paid?

You should speak to your employer as they will be able to advise on their human resource policies regarding payment when quarantining.

What is saliva testing and how does the saliva test work?

Saliva testing is a test that uses the saliva from your mouth to test for COVID-19.

The test is painless and simple. It may be collected by a healthcare worker or you may be asked to collect it yourself under supervision from a healthcare worker.

Saliva testing is only able to detect the presence of COVID-19 in the saliva, a positive test may mean you either have COVID-19 or it may show evidence of a previous COVID-19 infection. The test is not able to detect other respiratory viruses, or drug substances, or whether you are pregnant.

The test can be conducted daily without any side effects.

Does the saliva test detect anything other than COVID-19 (alcohol, other medications, recreational drugs, pregnancy)?

No. Saliva testing only tests for COVID-19. The test is not able to detect other respiratory viruses, or drug substances.

How accurate is saliva testing?

The throat and deep nasal swab remain the best test for anyone with symptoms because it is more accurate. At this time, the saliva test is only used as a screening test for some people without symptoms who will need frequent testing (people who are asymptomatic).

If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, you should not go to work and get a COVID swab test from a fever clinic or through your local doctor.

If I have a saliva test and develop symptoms later in the day or the next day, what should I do?

If you experience symptoms, no matter how mild, between your regular tests you must get tested immediately and isolate. You cannot attend your workplace until you receive a negative result and no longer have symptoms.

Does saliva testing hurt?

No. The saliva testing is painless, not invasive and takes about one minute.

What are the risks with frequent saliva testing? Will my mouth get sore? Are the chemicals safe to have every day?

There are no risks associated with frequent testing.

How must surveillance testing records be kept?

The Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive and the Queensland Ambulance Service Commissioner must keep a record of surveillance testing of relevant employees.

This information must be stored in a secure database that is only accessible to authorised persons.

The Department of Health must also be notified as soon as possible of any report of direct or indirect contact by a relevant employee who has not started the vaccination process.

Questions about face masks

When do I need to wear a face mask?

Relevant employees must wear a P2/N95 mask at all times when working in an area with COVID-19 patients, if a mask and fit testing has been made available.

What if I can’t wear a face mask?

If you are unable to wear a P2/N95 mask you must not enter an area where a COVID-19 patient is located.

Other

What happens if I refuse to be vaccinated, tested or wear a face mask when required?

If you refuse to follow the vaccination, testing or face mask requirements in this Direction and continue to work as a relevant employee, you may be given an on-the-spot fine of $1,334 (vaccination and testing) or $200 (face mask), a court-imposed penalty of up to $13,345 or 6 months' imprisonment.

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If you are seeking clarification on a Direction or have any questions, please call 134 COVID (13 42 68).

You can apply for an exemption to a Direction online.