Doctor and nurses who refuse to take a COVID-19 vaccine can open a private practice and advertise themselves as such, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says.
Speaking on WE FM, on Sunday, the prime minister said that the changes to the Public Health Act passed into law, on Friday, “on any objective analysis, was a tidying up exercise so as not to have an argument of sophistry about two provisions in the act”
He was referring to the original act of 1977 and the amendment that his government made to it in April 2020.
Gonsalves, who is also minister of legal affairs, said that there was a view that “somehow there would have been a conflict between them.
“I didn’t see the conflict, but to avoid any argument of sophistry, legal sophistry, I said, let’s tidy that up. And before we went to the Parliament, I said the intention of the government is to pass statutory rules and order, to pass the requisite rules to provide a choice to persons who are in frontline jobs. And we’ll define what those were.”
The prime minister said that persons in “the frontline jobs”, there would be a requirement that the occupants of those jobs should be vaccinated.
“You have a choice. There is no there mandatory or compulsory vaccination to mean it’s criminal or you have to pay a civil penalty.
“It’s just that if you are a nurse or a doctor, for instance, you choose whether you’re going to do this job vaccinated, which the public demanding, in my view, or you get another job it is your choice,” Gonsalves said.
“You have a profession you can put up a shingle. You can put up a shingle as a doctor or a nurse: ‘Unvaccinated doctor. Unvaccinated nurse. Please come. We offer the best service.’
“You can put up that on your shingle, you know. I want to know how many will go if you go and advertise yourself as an unvaccinated doctor or unvaccinated nurse,” the prime minister said.
He further said that before the law was passed was in Parliament, on Friday, he had listed the two conditions under which frontline workers would be exempted from vaccination.
“… the two exemptions which you will have there is an exemption on medical grounds or on a deeply held religious belief and the employer, that it say, the state, can make a reasonable accommodation to have you elsewhere.
“I spoke about these things openly as I read my notes as late as the Wednesday night before,” the prime minister said, citing an interview he had with the state-owned television station, VC3.
He said that the interview was “fully reported”.
“But there was also misreporting when Kenton Chance in iWitness News says that this demonstration, this protest, was against mandatory vaccination. But no mandatory vaccination was or is on the agenda,” Gonsalves said in relation to the protest in Kingstown, on Thursday, during which he was injured.
“This is just a continuation to try to see if they can undo the results of the last election,” the prime minister said of the demonstration.
“Before the last election, the NDP had seven seats now they have six. Before the election, the ULP had a majority of one seat, they have a majority now of two seats.
“Those are the facts, you know. And to tell me that because you got a few more votes in the Grenadines and give you some sliver of a majority, I play the election on the basis of the rules. I didn’t go one single day in the month of election campaign in the Northern Grenadines or the Southern Grenadines,” the prime minister said, referring to the majority vote that the NDP secured in the November 2020 general elections.
The prime minister said that a lot of supporters of his Unity Labour Party “just stayed away from the poll in those areas and in some other areas.
“I focus on the seats where we were going to win — the eight seats which we had and I target another three or so and spent my efforts on those. That’s what an election is about. They want me to tell them how to win an election?” Gonsalves said.