The union for Saskatchewan Health Authority workers says its members "should be entitled to make their own decision" when it comes to getting vaccinated against COVID-19, on the heels of the Saskatchewan government saying it wants to require proof of vaccination among some workers.
The Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan represents over 4,000 specialized Saskatchewan Health Authority employees, working in fields ranging from addictions counselling to physical therapy, among many others.
Last week, a day after Premier Scott Moe announced the Saskatchewan government was seeking to establish a policy requiring front-line health-care workers to provide proof of vaccination or face regular testing, HSAS sent a letter to its members.
The letter stated that workers had a variety of concerns with the province's proposal. Some said vaccinations should be voluntary. Others said the policy should apply to all health-care workers. Some members felt health-care information should remain private, the union's letter said.
"HSAS communicated the belief that each member should be entitled to make their own decision with respect to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine," according to the letter, which was obtained by CBC News. "That position is unchanged."
Moe said on Aug. 30 that "details on this workplace policy will be announced in the coming days."
But in an interview with CBC News on Tuesday, Karen Wasylenko, the president of HSAS, said the government had not yet presented any new details to the union, including what will happen if a worker declines to get tested.
"We haven't heard any more, except that [Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO] Scott Livingstone has said also that it's going to take a few weeks to develop this policy," Wasylenko said.
Asked to elaborate on the letter's statement that workers are "entitled to make their own decision," Wasylenko said her union has strongly advocated for the priority vaccination of health-care workers, including paramedics, since the beginning of the province's vaccination drive late in 2020.
"We have been told by the SHA that HSAS has the highest rate of [full] vaccination of all the health-care unions, at just over 80 per cent," Wasylenko said.
"Even without requiring the proof of vaccination, our members stepped forward and did it."
CBC News has reached out to the Ministry of Health and the Saskatchewan Health Authority for comment.
"This is a necessary step to protect our vital front-line health-care teams who provide incredible care under extremely trying circumstances," Livingstone said via email. "We are grateful for their dedication and committed to ensuring a safe environment for all health-care workers, patients, residents and clients."