Health unit turns away cross-border nurses volunteering to vaccinate Windsor-Essex residents

·2 min read
Kate Kemplin, a registered nurse on both sides of the border, says she understands and agrees with the decision that the health unit has made.  (Dan Taekema/CBC - image credit)
Kate Kemplin, a registered nurse on both sides of the border, says she understands and agrees with the decision that the health unit has made. (Dan Taekema/CBC - image credit)

Despite looking for volunteers to vaccinate the community, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has turned down some cross-border nurses who have offered their services, leaving some feeling disappointed.

Last week, the local health unit put out a call for volunteers with a medical background to help with the vaccination rollout. But medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed says they can't accept cross-border health-care workers under Canada's guidelines.

CBC News has heard from nurses who say the majority of registered nurses in the U.S. are vaccinated, which is why they don't understand the inability to volunteer.

But Canada's rules say that health-care workers crossing the border should isolate as much as possible outside of work and Ahmed says the regulations don't differentiate between people who are vaccinated and those who aren't.

Registered nurse Kate Kemplin, who is licensed to work on both sides of the border, says it must have been difficult for the health unit to turn away help — but she agrees that that's the way it must be.

"I'm sure that anyone running a vaccine program would love to have as many nurses as possible but the reality is that when you cross the border every day, or you cross the border once, you make a choice and the choice is to come home and isolate," she said.

"The fact of the matter is that this is not discrimination, this is public health."

She said there's many other ways that cross-border nurses can be helpful, including calling patients, doing pre-screening and providing online training for new vaccine injectors.

"If we want to get as many people vaccinated as possible, then we do have to consider community injectors, injections for this type of vaccination is fairly low risk as a procedure and we could be training lay people to do it," she said, adding that this can include people who are not currently working due to COVID-19 layoffs.

She said people who do the job should also be paid for it.

As for nurses that really want to vaccinate their fellow Canadians, Kemplin said they could always make that happen.

"The reality is we do need you at home and if that is what you want to do, quarantine for 14 days and make that your mission," she said.