Christchurch woman rejected for mental health role due to vaccination status despite critical staff shortage

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Jun 15, 2023 |

A Christchurch woman has voiced her frustration at being rejected a job in Māori mental health, because of her vaccination status, amidst a critical shortage of healthcare professionals.

The individual, whose identity has been protected at her request, applied for a position as a Pukenga Atawhai (Maori Mental Health Worker) through Te Whatu Ora Canterbury, formally the Canterbury District Health Board.

A recent Government report said “Māori experience significantly higher rates of mental illness, higher rates of suicide and greater prevalence of addictions, while the prevalence of mental distress among Māori is almost 50% higher than among non-Māori.”

The woman disclosed her decision not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine during the application process. 

In an email granting the woman an interview, a Te Whatu Ora recruitment staff member said that as a person working in the health and disability sector, the applicant would come into contact with numerous individuals, including vulnerable populations.

The employer claimed “risks associated with not being vaccinated, such as the potential for contracting COVID-19 or transmitting it to colleagues, which could “burden the healthcare system.”

It said “the requirement for vaccination, therefore, aimed to ensure the safety of employees and protect against the potential transmission of the virus within the workplace.”

Te Whatu Ora still granted the woman a job interview, and it went ahead as planned, after she disclosed her vaccination status.

Days later she was advised she was rejected because she was unvaccinated.

Expressing her disappointment, the woman questioned the inconsistency she observed, citing instances where she was able to attend hospital appointments without being vaccinated and interact with staff members without wearing a mask. 

“I do not understand how I am able to attend appointments at the hospital for various reasons, sit around their staff and be face to face with them, no mask on and they have no hesitation to see me.

“I was quite disheartened by this decision to continue to push the vaccination on us when in all honesty, the world knows these do not stop you from contracting and passing on the virus,” she added.

“I was angry and upset about this decision as I stand firm on my decision to not be vaccinated with something that does not protect you from the virus and in all honesty could potentially harm me.”

The woman further revealed her disappointment at the wasted time and effort invested in the interview process, as she had received positive feedback from all the hiring managers she encountered throughout the day. 

Chris Lynch Media has seen an email from Te Whatu Ora which praised the woman following her job interview.

“The hiring managers thought you were a stand out and had great personal experiences that could relate well to the role. You showed great confidence, energy and enthusiasm for the role and on the day and would have made a great contribution to our organisation”

The woman said “what disheartened me was the fact I had great feedback all round from every hiring manager that I attended interviews with that day and even to the point one stepped outside to tell me she was definitely going to hire me.

“I was honest in my registration of not being vaccinated, and they still decided to progress further with the interview process which was a total waste of time for not only the managers but myself,” she added.

A spokesperson from Te Whatu Ora Canterbury clarified that although the government’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health workers had been lifted, the vaccination practices at Te Whatu Ora – Health NZ’s hospitals would remain in effect until a national vaccination policy was established. 

The spokesperson mentioned ongoing efforts by the Te Whatu Ora Pre-employment Vaccination Policy Working Group to review feedback from staff, unions, and external stakeholders regarding the policy, encompassing both COVID-19 and other vaccinations. 

Until a national policy was implemented, the local vaccination practice at Te Whatu Ora would continue to apply to all staff members.

The spokesperson further explained that the current local approach mandates COVID-19 vaccination for all current and potential employees. 

However, in certain circumstances where an applicant is not up to date with vaccinations, an individual risk assessment would be conducted based on the specific role, department, and nature of the work involved.

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

Have you got a news tip? Get in touch here

got a news tip?