Advocates concerned over where unvaccinated nurses will work amid mandates

Click to play video: 'Unvaccinated nurses to open Kamloops clinic'
Unvaccinated nurses to open Kamloops clinic
WATCH ABOVE: A new wellness clinic in Kamloops is being opened by nurses who can no longer work in the health care system as they are not vaccinated against COVID-19 – Oct 29, 2021

With several provinces now beginning to drop the hammer of COVID-19 vaccine mandates for their health-care workers, hundreds of frontline staff are opting to leave their jobs instead of getting the jab.

Over 4,000 health-care workers in B.C. were placed on unpaid leave after failing to show proof of vaccination, many of which could face being fired from their job.

Vaccine mandates for health-care workers in Alberta and Quebec are also looming, prompting thousands of unvaccinated staff to either get vaccinated or be forced to leave.

While a provincial mandate hasn’t yet been enforced in Ontario, several hospitals and health centres have imposed vaccine mandates themselves — prompting concern from one advocacy group over where unvaccinated health-care workers can go when given the choice to leave or get the vaccine.

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Dr. Doris Grinspun, the CEO of Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO), told Global News that nurses working with other unvaccinated health-care staff were not only concerned about their own safety but that of the patients as well.

“Patients do not need the burden of having unvaccinated people working with them, whether they’re nurses, doctors or PSWs or anybody else,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Global National: Oct. 30'
Global National: Oct. 30

Grinspun’s organization has been advocating for a vaccine mandate for all health-care workers in Ontario since at least the summer and has criticized the current provincial Conservative government for not moving more swiftly on a decision to impose such a mandate given that many other provinces already have.

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Her concern over the lack of a provincial mandate is deepened by not every hospital or health-care provider enforcing their own vaccine regulations, meaning that unvaccinated staff that are let go could work for providers that don’t enforce vaccinations.

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In Kamloops, a group of unvaccinated nurses started their own private wellness clinic that operates with free services.

“We’re not being allowed to help. We were told we weren’t wanted, we weren’t needed — and yet, we know we are,” said Glenn Aalderink, the team lead at Ezra Wellness.

“I saw that there was going to be a need for those of us who choose not to follow the official mandates — to seek their own health care.”

In B.C.’s Interior Health region, roughly 1,300 health-care staff were put on unpaid leave after not having gotten their shots of the vaccine.

There, two Kelowna health-care staff told Global News about their experience being forced out of their jobs over not having a vaccine jab.

Click to play video: 'Kelowna nurses say B.C.’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers will have huge impact on patient care'
Kelowna nurses say B.C.’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers will have huge impact on patient care

“I’m currently still waiting for the signs on this one,” said Andrea Henders in an interview earlier this week. “There isn’t any long-term data on the vaccine yet.”

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According to Henders, the loss of hundreds of health-care workers in B.C. would most likely take a huge toll on an already strained system.

“It’s important that the general public knows how much of an impact this is going to have,” said Henders.

When it came to the fallout of imposing a similar mandate in Ontario, Grinspun said she doesn’t expect many nurses to quit.

“They would either go to another hospital or home care where patients are even more vulnerable sometimes,” she said.

— With files from Global News’ Doyle Potenteau, Klaudia Van Emmerik and Amandalina Letterio

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