The entry into force of the vaccination obligation for caregivers and paramedical workers from September 15th would not have hampered the functioning of the French health system: this is the message that the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran wanted to convey. “Yesterday there were some 3,000 suspensions which were served on staff of health or medico-social establishments who had not yet entered into a vaccination course”, he said Thursday, September 16 on RTL, specifying that they are “Mainly support services, very few white coats”.
Why this figure is very underestimated
- A rise “at an instant T”
This figure is “Partial and parcel”, assumes the cabinet of Olivier Véran, interviewed by The world. “It concerns 3,000 lifts on Wednesday, at a given moment, made establishment by establishment. “ The minister’s entourage also explains that this figure has already increased, either because establishments that had not yet done so have in the meantime raised their number of suspended professionals, or because new suspensions have been decided. A more updated figure is “In the process of consolidation” with the help of regional health agencies.
By definition, it only concerns personnel working in health establishments, which excludes all doctors, nurses and paramedical professionals who work in private practice, but also all firefighters and ambulance attendants.
- Different situations depending on the hospital
Difficult to collect all the figures of the suspensions, because the feedback from the field remains fragmentary. Some establishments explained Wednesday do not yet have complete data on their numbers. For hospitals alone, the situations vary from one region to another: in Nice, out of some 7,500 CHU employees, 350 were suspended, according to France Bleu, or around 5% of the workforce. In hospitals in the Southern Alps (Gap, Sisteron, Embrun, Briançon, Aiguilles and Guillestre), they are 100 out of 3 100 to have been relieved of their duties. Conversely, the Sagesse clinic in Rennes only counts two unvaccinated out of its 700 employees.
- A “gap” compared to the latest vaccination data
Olivier Véran’s cabinet admits that there is a “Ditch” between this figure and the number also announced of caregivers not attesting to an entry into the vaccination cycle.
Indeed, according to the last epidemiological point of Public Health France, on September 14, the day before the vaccination obligation came into force, more than 10% of staff working in residential establishments for dependent elderly people (Ehpad) or health establishments had not received any vaccine dose. That would represent a hundred thousand people, “About 300,000” according to the estimates of the ministry, which counts all the professionals of health, whatever their category.
Why it will be difficult to get a comprehensive figure
- Not all unvaccinated caregivers are suspended
Several elements can explain, in part, this “Ditch”. First, not all caregivers are eligible for vaccination, either because they have medical contraindications (even if it is very rare), or because they contracted Covid-19 and their symptoms stopped there less than two months. These personnel are among the figures of unvaccinated caregivers, but they will not be suspended from their duties so far.
- Sickness or vacation
In addition to these workers, there are nursing staff on sick leave. This phenomenon, far from being marginal, has affected the chronically understaffed public hospital for several years. The latter, not being present in the premises or on the schedules when the vaccination obligation came into force, could not be suspended. The caregivers can also choose to use, with the agreement of their management, days of leave to avoid the suspension of their employment contract and their remuneration. Other employers may also have decided, as in Le Mans, to grant a one week extension for their employees.
- Flexibilities in the overseas territories
Finally, the vaccination obligation has been relaxed in the overseas territories hit hard by Covid-19. August 26, Olivier Véran had announced that this measure would be “Pushed back” after the fourth epidemic wave. Statements that have confused in Guadeloupe. “We will give educational reminders to unvaccinated caregivers” before the introduction of stricter controls, accompanied by possible sanctions, said on September 15 the director general of the regional health agency of Guadeloupe, Valérie Denux.
The level of vaccination remains much lower there than in metropolitan France, including among liberal health professionals and the nursing home workers. To the point that the director general of the CHU de Guadeloupe estimated, Thursday, September 16, to be “In the impossibility” suspend unvaccinated agents, as they represent 70% of the staff.