VICTORIA — British Columbia hospitals are postponing some surgeries due to staffing shortages created by unvaccinated health-care workers who have been put on unpaid leave, says Health Minister Adrian Dix.
Dix said Monday that 3,325 health-care workers across the province have not been immunized against COVID-19 and are in violation of the government's proof-of-vaccination policy, which took effect last month.
The staffing shortages will result in reductions of operating services in hospitals in the Interior and Fraser health authorities, while added demand for health care has forced surgery postponements in many other parts of the province, he told a news conference.
"Across B.C., the vast majority of our surgical rooms continue to run, but due to a variety of challenges there have been some reductions," he said. "Kelowna General Hospital has reduced two operating rooms this week to compensate for staff who did not meet vaccination requirements who are on unpaid leave."
Dix mentioned hospitals across the province that are facing staffing pressures, including those in Kamloops, Abbotsford, North Vancouver, Richmond and New Westminster.
He said of the 127,448 health-care workers in the province, 122,059 are fully vaccinated, while 2,064 have had one vaccine dose.
Of the 3,225 health-care workers who have not been vaccinated, five per cent are in Interior Health and four per cent are in Northern Health, said Dix.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said officials have been speaking with health-care workers in one-on-one meetings about their vaccination concerns, but some remain adamantly opposed to the vaccines.
"Some people are quite dogmatic against vaccines, which is unfortunate," she said.
Henry said vaccines are considered a lifesaver during pandemics.
"If people are in our health-care system and not recognizing the importance of vaccination, then this is probably not the right profession for them, to be frank," she said.
Henry also announced people in B.C. who received two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will soon be notified they are eligible to receive a booster shot within six months of their second vaccine.
On Monday, B.C. reached the 90 per cent vaccination rate for all eligible people aged 12 and up for their first dose. The double vaccination rate is 85.3 per cent.
There were 1,370 new cases reported on Monday over a three-day period starting on Friday, which brought the number of active cases to 4,668. Another 25 people have died, lifting the death toll to 2,181.
The B.C. government also introduced its final proof-of-vaccine policy Monday for public service employees. It requires government workers to provide proof-of-vaccine status by Nov. 22 or face being placed on unpaid leave for three months and possible future termination.
The policy applies to any employee working in the public service, regardless of whether they are working from home or remotely.
The government says in a statement that workers who have had one dose of a vaccine may be offered alternative work arrangements and will be required to provide proof of full vaccination within 35 days of having had their first dose.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2021.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press