COVID-19: B.C. nurses fear health-care system could 'crash' due to vaccine mandate for workers

WATCH: The B.C. Nurses' Union is warning of a staffing crisis as the new vaccine mandate for all healthcare workers goes into force. Richard Zussman reports.

The B.C. Nurses’ Union says the B.C. health-care system could crumble due to the mandate for workers to be vaccinated.

As of Oct. 26, all health-care workers in the province must be fully immunized against COVID-19 or receive an exemption from the provincial health officer.

The union says it has been pushing for nurses to be immunized but those choosing not to should instead be required to do daily COVID-19 tests and wear additional personal protective equipment, rather than lose their job.

“Our health-care system would crash,” BC Nurses’ Union vice-president Aman Grewal said.

“It is going to impact the care that is being provided because the resources are not there. That is where the government needs to focus the attention.”

Read more:
All B.C. health-care workers must be vaccinated against COVID by Oct. 26: officials

There are more than 40,000 nurses across British Columbia. Neither the union nor the province has official vaccination rates, but the estimates are between 90 to 95 per cent.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province did not make the decision lightly, but the conclusion was made that B.C. could no longer have a situation, given the seriousness of COVID-19 and its impact, where people are working without vaccination.

“We’re in a pandemic. It has very high risks in the health-care setting. We have these very effective, very safe vaccines. There’s an expectation that everyone who works in the health-care system is vaccinated. The level of risk in the health care system justifies that,” Dix said.

It is still unknown how many nurses will refuse to get vaccinated. Each application for an exemption will be individually reviewed.

Read more:
Third COVID shot needed for severely immunocompromised people, B.C. officials say

“We’re going to have to prepare for circumstances should people leave certain positions and it’s why, in part, we’ve continued to add health-care workers in this pandemic,” Dix said.

The first phase of the vaccine mandate will come into effect Oct. 12, when the 49,000 staff in long-term care and assisted living will be required to be vaccinated.

Paramedics are also required to be vaccinated. The head of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, Troy Clifford, says about 95 per cent of his 4,500 members have been vaccinated.

Clifford says they are worried about staff leaving and putting additional pressure on an already strained system. But the risks of not being vaccinated are far greater.

“Paramedics who get sick and can’t come to work are worse for our system,” Clifford said.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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