All health-care workers in B.C. must be immunized against COVID-19 to work in a health-care facility in any part of the province, officials announced Monday.
This new measure, announced by the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, will come into effect on Oct. 26, and will apply to anyone working in acute and community care, along with people who work in home care.
It will be a requirement for all workers, physicians, contractors and volunteers, Henry added.
“It will be a condition of employment,” she said.
“The ultimate end for those who choose not to get vaccinated who work in healthcare will be leave without pay.”
Henry added that there will be considerations for people who cannot medically receive the COVID vaccines and those cases will be looked at as they arise. She said it may mean people are reassigned to another position or it may mean more testing needs to take place.
Previously, only those working in long-term care and assisted living facilities need to be fully vaccinated against COVID.
There are currently 139 people in ICU with COVID in B.C. Of them, 121 are unvaccinated, Health Minister Adrian Dix said Monday.
In addition, he said there are 38 people under 50 in the ICU with COVID in B.C. and 37 of those are unvaccinated.
From Sept. 5 to 11, Dix said 289 surgeries had to be postponed due to the pressure on the healthcare system of caring for COVID patients.
Of those surgeries, 176 were in Interior Health, 50 in Fraser Health and 63 in Vancouver Coastal Health.
The B.C. Nurses’ Union said in a statement they have ” very significant concerns regarding today’s announcement.
“While BCNU strongly encourages nurses, other health care workers, and all members of the public to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and other communicable diseases as a preventive personal and public health measure in accordance with scientific evidence, we cannot support any order which will serve to remove even a single nurse or other health care worker from the healthcare system at a time of severe crisis,” the union said in a statement.
They said all other options need to be considered including possibly relocating someone to another health care setting where the workers’ safety can be managed through protections such as rapid testing and PPE.