Hospitals in Western Australia Turn Away Patients As Vaccine Mandates Slash Staff

By Daniel Khmelev
Daniel Khmelev
Daniel Khmelev
Daniel Khmelev is an Australian reporter based in Perth covering energy, tech, and politics. He has a background in maths, physics, and computer science. Contact him at daniel.khmelev@epochtimes.com.au.
November 5, 2021 Updated: November 9, 2021

Several hospitals across Western Australia (WA) have begun refusing new admissions and surgeries following a health staff crisis that worsened after unvaccinated staff were told they could not return to work.

An email shown to The Epoch Times revealed that St John of God Subiaco in WA’s capital, Perth, was forced to halt any new non-critical surgeries while preventing general admissions that were not deemed urgent due to a shortage of nursing staff.

In the email sent on Nov. 4, the hospital’s director of medical services told staff that a severe shortage had been exacerbated by a busy day for admissions.

“I apologise for this situation, but I trust you will understand that we are in the midst of a severe shortage of nurses and that we must ensure that our current patients and caregivers are safe,” the director said.

Epoch Times Photo
St John of God Midland Hospital in Perth, Australia on Aug. 24, 2016. (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

These closures come after the WA government issued new health directives that mandated the COVID-19 vaccine to 75 percent of the state’s workforce, the most all-encompassing and ambitious of any Australian state. Individuals refusing to comply will be slapped with a fine of up to $20,000, with businesses having unvaccinated staff facing penalties of up to $100,000.

But WA health workers had previously warned of the imminent staff shortages and impact on hospitals brought on by the mandate.

“There’s about 100 staff that haven’t had the vaccine at our hospital alone,” a midwife at a large public hospital told The Epoch Times on Oct. 22.

The news of the closures comes on the heels of thousands of WA health staff protesting the mandates throughout October, including rallies on the 1st, 16th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 25th, 26th, 28th, and 30th of the month. Another protest was scheduled for Nov. 1—the day of the vaccination deadline for hospital staff.

The hospital closures have also been repeated around the state.

St John of God Geraldton Hospital Acting CEO Jack Harding announced on Nov. 3 that there would be a suspension of maternity services at the hospital due to a shortage of midwives.

“With the current shortage of qualified midwives, we are finding it increasingly difficult to fill rosters and ensure we are appropriately resourced to provide a safe service,” the hospital stated in a Facebook post.

A midwife who had worked at King Edward Memorial Hospital—Western Australia’s largest maternity hospital—up until the vaccination deadline told The Epoch Times that her hospital had also begun implementing emergency measures to cope.

This included diverting patients to other hospitals and asking most staff to do double shifts—meaning one midwife could work 14 or 17 hours in a row, depending on the shift.

Epoch Times Photo
Health staff leave their uniforms in protest over Western Australia’s vaccine mandates outside of Dumas House, the residence of WA Premier Mark McGowan, in Perth, Australia, on Nov. 1, 2021. All hospital staff must receive their first vaccination by Nov. 1 to keep working, part of sweeping mandates that will require 75 percent of the state’s workforce to be vaccinated by January 2022. (The Epoch Times)

The Epoch Times reached out to the WA government on Oct. 11 and WA Health Minister Roger Cook on Oct. 13 to ask if the state government was planning on addressing staff shortages following the vaccination deadline. The Epoch Times did not receive a reply.

WA Premier Mark McGowan had previously expressed apathy toward anti-mandated vaccination protestors following national protests on Sep. 18.

“What are they protesting about?” McGowan said reported WA Today before suggesting the protestors should “grow a brain.”

The WA government has not yet revealed how many health staff have been dismissed, although there is a portion of staff currently being suspended without pay.

Other states have also seen health staff losses as a result of vaccine mandates, with the Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath revealing that around ten percent of the 100,000-strong public healthcare workforce had yet to be vaccinated. The deadline for complete vaccination was Oct. 31.

“There are 7,000 health workers who have not come forward saying they are vaccinated, but 3,000 of those are on leave,” she told reporters on Nov. 1.

“There are 4,000 who have not been vaccinated and will be given their show-cause and will be suspended with full pay,” she said. “There will be some disruptions, but we are managing those disruptions,” she said. “We will put in place measures to manage any workforce shortages that might occur.”

Daniel Khmelev is an Australian reporter based in Perth covering energy, tech, and politics. He has a background in maths, physics, and computer science. Contact him at daniel.khmelev@epochtimes.com.au.