Long-term care providers across B.C. fear staff shortages from vaccine policy

·3 min read
Long-term care facilities throughout the province have dealt with COVID-19 outbreaks and staffing shortages. Now, vaccine-hesitant employees may decide to leave their jobs.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Long-term care facilities throughout the province have dealt with COVID-19 outbreaks and staffing shortages. Now, vaccine-hesitant employees may decide to leave their jobs. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Care providers across the province are concerned that the mandatory vaccine policy for employees of care homes will put more pressure on the already struggling health-care system.

Starting on Sept 13., all employees of long-term care homes and assisted living facilities will be required to have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. By Oct. 12, all workers will need to be fully vaccinated in order to continue working.

Hendrik Van Ryk is the CEO of H&H Total Care Services, a privately owned organization that runs five care homes, with locations across Vancouver Island and the Interior.

He says since the beginning of the pandemic, care homes have had to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks, staff shortages and now, vaccine-hesitant workers who are looking for other jobs.

Van Ryk says the mandate has caused serious concern for some of his sites.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

"There's a good chance we'll lose between 20 and 25 percent of our staff because you know, they don't want to get vaccinated," Van Ryk told CBC News.

While the province's vaccine policy covers long-term care facilities, it does not apply to acute care facilities or community care, such as in-home care workers.

Van Ryk fears they will lose numerous employees who refuse to get vaccinated to other facilities.

"The challenge we have is that a lot of them want to stay in health-care, but they can go across the street, to the general hospital in the area and get a job because there's lots of work," he said.

Menno Place in Abbotsford, one of the largest senior care campuses, is also bracing for staffing shortages. CEO Karen Biggs is worried they could lose up to six per cent of their 675 employees.

"I think the solution would be to at least apply the same rules to acute and community. That way, at least staff would be under a bigger way of convincing them to get the vaccine because their options would shrink," Biggs said.

Jon Hernandez/CBC
Jon Hernandez/CBC

She says that for now, the issue is how they can encourage people to get the vaccine because they can't afford to lose them.

Other care homes facing same challenges

Mike Klassen with the B.C. Care Providers Association says there are dozens of care homes across the province who are facing the same staffing challenges.

He says it is more urgent now than ever that the province changes the rules, and make vaccinations mandatory for all health-care workers.

"I do think that we have to do more to better communicate the importance of being vaccinated, that it's safe and also try and reduce opportunities for people to just be able to pick up and go elsewhere," he said.

His association is asking B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry and the ministry to put in a public health order requiring new hires in acute care to be fully vaccinated.

"If we can get that changed, it would make it less likely for someone to go from one job to the next because of the vaccination hesitancy."

In a statement sent to CBC News, the Ministry of Health said additional measures will be considered to help further protect people from the virus.

"Public health is currently looking at the highest risk settings in health-care, including acute care and community health service settings, and assessing the need for mandatory vaccination for people who work in those settings," the statement said.

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