B.C. health officials said Monday that 3,325 health-care workers, or about 2.6 per cent of the workforce, are not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 and have been placed on unpaid leave.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said that as of midnight Sunday, about 122,000 of B.C.’s 127,500 health-care workers have been fully vaccinated, or almost 96 per cent. Another 2,064 workers have received one dose, while the remainder is not vaccinated and on leave.
Hospitals across the province are facing staffing pressures, including those in Kamloops, Abbotsford, North Vancouver, Richmond and New Westminster, Dix said, and as a result, surgeries are being postponed.
“Across B.C., the vast majority of our surgical rooms continue to run, but due to a variety of challenges there have been some reductions,'” he said. “Kelowna General Hospital has reduced two operating rooms this week to compensate for staff who did not meet vaccination requirements who are on unpaid leave.”
The situation in Interior Health is the direst at this time, he added, with 1,018 health workers on leave.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said officials have been speaking with health workers about their vaccination concerns, but some remain adamantly opposed to the vaccines.
“Some people are quite dogmatic against vaccines, which is unfortunate,” she said.
“If people are in our health-care system are not recognizing the importance of vaccination, then this is probably not the right profession for them, to be frank.”
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During the news conference, Henry also clarified that anyone who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will receive a notice that they are eligible for their booster shot six months after their second dose. The booster will be an mRNA vaccine, meaning Pfizer or Moderna.
The province has also updated mandatory vaccine rules for public service employees. All direct government workers must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22.
Contractors and others accessing employee-only areas of indoor public-service workplaces are also required to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 13.
Workers who are unvaccinated and have not received an approved exemption based on a medical condition or other legitimate grounds will be placed on unpaid leave for three months.
Partially vaccinated employees may be offered alternative work arrangements and will have to provide proof of full vaccination within 35 days of receiving their first dose, or face unpaid leave.
Additionally, visitors at all acute care facilities must now show proof of vaccination to visit friends and loved ones.
– with files from The Canadian Press