Elective surgery capacity, intensive care unit staffing and specialist skills could suffer critical losses if potentially hundreds of doctors and nurses refuse to be vaccinated, a key health spokesperson fears.
Workers in Tasmanian healthcare settings have just 10 days to be vaccinated or provide evidence of an appointment before casual and part-time workers are instantly dismissed, and permanent staff stood down and the termination process begins.
Australian Medical Association Tasmania spokesperson Dr Frank Nicklason said there were many roles within the health system where if dismissals occurred, the outcome would be devastating.
"There are roles that are quite specialised and require experience. For us to be able to supply continuous capable service, it's not something that can be filled in with agency staff," he said.
"Intensive care units would be an example, I would be worried about that vulnerability.
"The Royal Hobart is managing in an understaffed situation already. There isn't any slack in the system."
Dr Nicklason said the grounds for vaccine refusal that he had heard among healthcare workers included religious reasons, concerns about "coercion" under the mandate and questions about the speed of the development of the vaccine.
He said a lack of redeployment option could also be a problem, detailing how a senior nursing specialist and a GP were among those refusing the vaccine due to their "very tightly-held beliefs".
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"There's two people who wont have any income from October 31, and where there's a loss of a GP who won't be able to do anything from then," Dr Nicklason said.
"They aren't even allowed to practice tele-medicine."
ICUs could face increased pressure should COVID spread to unvaccinated Tasmanians once borders open, with Dr Nicklason fearing this would have flow-on effects for life-saving heart and brain surgery that require an ICU bed.
The Health Department is regularly contacting workers regarding their vaccination status and has set up "kiosks" in various workplaces.
Health Department secretary Kathrine Morgan-Wicks said she was confident the final week would see a surge in vaccinations, but rostering would factor in potential staffing issues.
"We will be working with all of our nurse unit managers that are responsible for rostering," she said.
"We have worked to expand our casual pool ... all of our current recruitment campaigns are open and we are hiring, and we are also setting that requirement for vaccination for all new hires coming in.
"I'm confident we will have the staffing in order to run our operations, and I know the vast majority of our healthcare workforce is vaccinated."
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation has foreshadowed taking action in the Tasmanian Industrial Commission should it see sudden increases in overtime and double shifts from November.
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