Canada’s health and long-term care industries are set to face staff shortages and layoffs as deadlines for vaccine mandates across the country pass, with unions prompting federal and provincial governments to soften the harsh stance.
For hospitals and nursing homes, labor shortages will put pressure on a workforce already dealing with the nearly two-year pandemic. The uncertainty created by the vaccine mandate underscores the challenges on the road to recovery.
Devon Grayson, assistant professor of public health at the University of British Columbia, said officials are walking in uncharted waters with a largely vaccine mandate, and it’s not clear how activists will respond.
“A labor shortage can mean people’s health and wellbeing. It’s scary,” Grayson said.
However, Grayson said, “We’re in an ethical position where it’s even scary to make sure all healthcare workers are vaccinated. So it’s a bit of a catch-22.”
To cope with staffing shortages, at least one province is offering nurses a signing bonus. Provinces, including Quebec and British Columbia, have made it mandatory for health workers and nursing staff to get vaccinated to continue working in their respective territories.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also unveiled one of the strictest vaccine mandates in the world last week, saying unpaid federal workers would be sent on unpaid leave and making COVID-19 shots mandatory for air, train and ship passengers. Will be given
The layoffs have begun, with a hospital in southern Ontario dumping 57 employees last week, representing 2.5% of its workforce, after its vaccine mandate went into effect. Canadian Broadcasting Corp reported that a long-term care home in Toronto put 36% of its employees on unpaid leave because they refused vaccinations.
British Columbia will place employees in its long-term care and assisted-living area on unpaid administrative leave if they fail to receive at least one shot by Monday.
The province said that 97% of long-term care workers in Vancouver and surrounding areas have at least one dose as of October 6. But northern BC has only 89% of staff with at least one dose, although the data was still being updated.
The province recently changed the deadline, giving people more time to receive a second dose of the vaccine. “That’s because we know we have very limited health care resources,” said the province’s medical officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Quebec is offering a C$15,000 bonus to help attract and retain approximately 4,300 full-time nurses. Some 25,000 healthcare workers who have not yet been fully vaccinated before the October 15 deadline risk suspension without pay, said the province’s health minister, Christian Dubey.
About 97% of all employees of the University Health Network, which operates medical facilities in and around Toronto, Ontario, have been vaccinated before October 22, with efforts underway to find backup for the remainder.
Toronto-based employment attorney Daniel Lublin called the mandate “too political” and based on the majority view that vaccines are good. “The result is another segment of Canada’s workforce that is going to face job losses if they choose not to be vaccinated.”
The Public Service Coalition of Canada (PSAC), which represents 215,000 federal employees, said the union supports the government’s vaccination stance, saying its members who do not vaccinate should not be punished.
“Especially when remote work options are available that do not endanger the health and safety of colleagues and allow our members to continue serving Canadians,” said PSAC President Chris Aylward.
A government source said the Treasury Board, which oversees public administration, is in talks with PSAC and other labor representatives about the implementation of the mandate.
Louis Hugo Francescutti, an emergency room doctor in Edmonton, said he worked with many people who were denied vaccinations, even though it cost them their jobs when the mandate took effect on October 31.
Alberta has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Canada, and its hospitals are overwhelmed by the fourth wave.
“We’re under water right now that we’re losing some people who don’t want to be vaccinated – it would be sad (but) the impact would be minimal,” Francescutti said.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NB staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)