Unvaccinated healthcare workers in Greece who were removed from their posts for refusing to get COVID-19 shots will be allowed to return to their jobs by the end of the year, according to an announcement made by Health Minister Thanos Plevris.
The announcement came after new COVID-19 cases in Greece continued to rise in the week of September 26th to October 2nd, according to the weekly report by the National Public Health Organization (EODY).
An estimated 6,500 healthcare workers in the National Healthcare System were suspended in September 2021, when the ministry’s deadline for them to get the vaccine expired. Half of those eventually returned after getting inoculated.
Thousands of unvaccinated healthcare workers still in suspension
Approximately 2,200 unvaccinated healthcare workers remain suspended of whom only 170 are doctors while the rest are nursing and other paramedical and administrative personnel. In addition, approximately one thousand unvaccinated people work in the national healthcare system using a certificate of recovery.
“Instead of making the decision at the end of the year, we will look at the epidemiological data of October, and based on that, a decision will be made about whether or not they will return earlier,” the Health Minister said.
It is the first time the Greek government has formally announced that unvaccinated employees could return before the end of the year.
Last September, more than 5,895 unvaccinated health workers were suspended. The suspensions followed a new law that mandated vaccines among healthcare workers under penalty of suspension from their workplace if they did not fulfill vaccination obligations.
The Suspension Commission of the Council of State, Greece’s top administrative court, rejected applications submitted by healthcare workers attempting to block the law mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for employees in the national healthcare system. The state thus proceeded with suspensions.
“We are pushing health workers to be vaccinated, but we are against compulsory vaccination, which poses a democratic problem,” Dimitris Kourouvalakis, a member of the executive committee of the federation, stated last year.
The Greek government tried to find measures to fill the gaps. These measures included suspending holidays for vaccinated health workers to ensure that services remain fully operational. The state also moved ahead with a reshuffle of health care workers within hospitals, merging of clinics, replacement of those suspended with auxiliary staff, and partnerships with the private sector.
Furthermore, the Greek government introduced an amendment to the law that unvaccinated workers could return to work after receiving their first vaccine dose. Employees could remain in their post after the first dose as long as they followed through with their second shot afterwards.