All long-term care and assisted-living employees in British Columbia now need to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced last week that all workers in those facilities must have a first dose by Oct. 12 and a second dose within 35 days of the first, or they will have to take a mandatory leave of absence without pay.
Those who have received one dose will have to undergo rapid testing daily.
Mike Olds, spokesperson for the Hospital Employees Union, which represents around 20,000 members working in seniors care and services, says between 88 and 97 per cent of long-term care workers cares have received one shot depending on their health region and that the union is hoping the impact on staffing will be small.
"We had a huge staffing crisis in long-term care even before the pandemic started, so we don't have much room to move, and we're hoping that many workers got their shot over the last week," said Olds, speaking Tuesday on CBC's The Early Edition.
Karen Biggs, chief executive officer of Menno Place, a care home in Abbotsford, B.C., where 700 seniors live, says she is losing about nine employees out of 675 because they are not willing to vaccinate.
but Biggs said some staff have also chosen to retire early, while 19 casual employees who do not have permanent positions but work on a have-need basis have also refused a jab.
"The ones who are anti-vaxxers, of course, are very, very upset," said Biggs, also speaking Tuesday on The Early Edition.
"Some employees have worked with us for 14 years, 20 years, and they're choosing to walk away from their pension and their benefits by doing this," she added.
Terry Lake, chief executive officer of the B.C. Care Providers Association, whose members support more than 18,000 seniors in long-term care and assisted living, says just a small number of vaccine-hesitant employees could have a huge impact.
"Even if we were to lose three or four per cent of the workforce, that would put us in a difficult position in which seniors care is negatively affected," said Lake.
Plugging possible gaps
Biggs says Menno Place staff leaders have prepared for a possible shortage, including looking at ways to adjust shift lengths until new staff can be recruited and contracting out.
"We've gone outside of our organization to get some extra people because of the number of casuals. We've done this in consultation with our union and our association," said Biggs.
B.C. health officials have announced that COVID-19 vaccination will soon be mandatory for anyone who works in a health-care facility across the province.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the requirement will come into effect on Oct. 26 and will apply to everyone who works in these settings, including students, physicians, residents, contractors, volunteers and all other health-care professionals.
It also applies to people who work in home- and community-care locations, including client homes.
Starting Oct. 12, visitors to long-term care homes will also have to show their vaccine card. On Oct. 26, all health-care workers in B.C. and visitors to acute care facilities must also show proof of vaccine, with certain exceptions for palliative and end-of-life care.