18:54 / 03.10.2021.

Author: Katja Miličić

Health care workers must have COVID certificates or get tested starting Monday

Digital COVID certificates

Digital COVID certificates

Foto: Davor Visnjic / PIXSELL

Starting Monday, everyone working in the health care and social welfare systems will be required to have a COVID certificate, which shows they are vaccinated, have had COVID, or have tested negative for the virus. 

The Sisters of Mercy Hospital in Zagreb has around 3,900 employees and around 80% are vaccinated or have had COVID. The hospital plans test the remaining 800 workers, says chief administrator Damir Vagić.


"We have agreed to assign this task to our organizational units. We are going to do this through our head nurses and the multiple stations that will be set up for this purpose," Vagić said.


The head of the Institute for Public Health “Dr. Andrija Štampar” in Zagreb, Zvonimir Šostar, said they are also ready for the new rules. He is confident there won't be any problems since 85% of his staff is vaccinated.


However, some institutions are still concerned how they will get their employees to comply. Marko Rađa, the head of the Split-Dalmatia County Health Care Center, is not sure how to manage workers who refuse both the vaccine and to get tested.


"What do we do with those employees who do not have a COVID certificate, refuse to get tested, and continue coming to work? How can we stop them? And, what about the people who are not vaccinated or tested and do not show up for work? What is their status?” he asks.


It may sound absurd but this does appear to be a legal conundrum and administrators at public health care institutions are asking for guidance. COVID measures are handed down by the National Civil Defense Task force, whose decisions do not have the same weight as the law does and there is no law mandating the vaccine. The head of the national task force, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, says he's not so concerned about these kinds of hypotheticals.


"I am convinced that everyone working in the health care and social welfare systems will do everything they can and that their priority is the interest of patients and social services beneficiaries. I believe they will continue to be guided by the highest professional and ethical standards that are the hallmarks of these two systems," Božinović said.


"Our primary interest is to protect the health of our most vulnerable groups, and that means patients receiving treatment in hospital, as well as beneficiaries of the social welfare system," Health Minister Vili Beroš told Croatian Radio on Sunday.


Beroš said that employees who refuse both the vaccine and testing will not get paid but stopped short of saying they would be fired. He also said that he could accept, but not condone, that someone who works in health care could be vaccine hesitant but he does not understand the motives of those who refuse testing.


The new rule also applies to patients going to the hospital for surgery or other treatments and any family members that may be accompanying them. The new rules do not apply to emergency room patients or those going in for routine tests. These patients are subject to the same prevention measures that have been in place for most of the pandemic.


Dr. Vagić, the head of the Sisters of Mercy Hospital, says patients with scheduled elective procedures or tests do not need to worry this will affect their planned treatments. Their appointments are valid and they will be taken care of, he said.


Patients going to see their family doctors or dentists are not required to have a COVID certificate.


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