Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reform) said that although getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is voluntary, people refusing vaccines should not work in care homes. She noted that the situation is not solved before all care home workers are inoculated.
"Vaccinations are certainly what we are striving for and we cannot be happy until all care home workers are vaccinated. At the same time, we must also see that getting vaccinated is voluntary, but on the other hand, if you work with very vulnerable people, then you should understand from a professional perspective that extreme measures are necessary," Riisalo told ETV's current affairs show "Ringvaade" on Thursday.
She noted that extreme measures are that unvaccinated people should not work with clients. Care home workers can also get tested.
"In addition to there being vaccinations, there are other measures and we know very well that the biological hazards regulation states that all care homes must have conducted a risk analysis. It has to have details of how work is organized in a manner that is safe for clients. And this also means that if an employee comes to work and they are unvaccinated, they need to get tested and can only work with clients if they test negative," Riisalo explained.
If the employee does not want to get vaccinated or tested, they cannot be forced, but they should also not work in a care home, the minister said. "In that case, I believe we do not have any care home managers that would keep those people at work," Riisalo said.
She added that people refusing vaccinations can be dismissed according to Labor Inspectorate directives and the biological hazards regulation, which entered into force on September 1.
Care homes, however, cannot find replacements. "If a worker is away from work, replacement workers must be found and that is part of a care home manager's job. In the same way, it is the owner's problem that these measures and earlier agreements are seen to and these workers are found. We were in a very complicated situation six months ago and found these workers. The same now. The state has also helped with wage support to bring reinforcements to care homes, but it is certainly an issue for the manager and their work organization," Riisalo said.
The minister noted that while vaccinations do not save from getting infected with the coronavirus, it is necessary for people to not fall seriously ill.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste