Andrea Henders gets emotional talking about being forced off her nursing job at Kelowna General Hospital due to B.C.’s vaccine mandate.
She’s among the roughly 1,300 health-care staff in the Interior Health region now on unpaid leave because she hasn’t had a COVID-19 vaccine.
“I’m currently still waiting for the signs on this one,” said Henders, adding, “there isn’t any long-term data on the vaccine yet.”
A hospital colleague, Hailey Hunter, echoes the sentiment about the vaccine and not being able to work.
“It doesn’t feel real at all,” Hunter told Global News.
“I’m still in shock that this has happened and that this has gone this far.”
Both nurses say the loss of hundreds of health-care workers across the province will take a huge toll, stating that an already existing staffing shortage will become even worse.
“It’s important that the general public knows how much of an impact this is going to have,” said Henders.
While the Ministry of Health admits this will create challenges, such as delayed surgeries and intermittent hospital bed closures, Health Minister Adrian Dix is firm that the vaccine mandate is necessary.
“This is a very strong action needed in a pandemic to protect health-care workers, other health-care workers, other health-care professionals, patients in the public,” said Dix.
However, the two nurses wonder why the government didn’t consider options other than mandatory vaccinations.
“A lot of us would have been open to rapid, testing, daily testing, temperature checks, self-monitoring like we do all the time,” said Henders.
The nurses have until Nov. 15 to get their first dose or face termination. These two feel so strongly they will choose the latter.
“For those people that said they would prefer no nurse at all to an unvaccinated nurse clearly has not been in the hospital or has not had a loved one in the hospital,” said Hunter.
“And I think those comments are deeply concerning.”
While they don’t know what their future holds, they’re still hoping to be called back to work.
“We are willing and able to work,” said Hunter. “We’re kind of sitting here on standby. Let us work, let us care for our patients safely and effectively.”
Hunter added “for those that choose not to get the vaccine, why are we not allowed (rapid testing) and continue working and provide safer care?”