About four per cent of the 49,000 people who work at B.C.’s long-term and assisted-living homes hadn’t been vaccinated for COVID-19 by Tuesday, the first day a public health order requiring them to have at least one dose as a condition of their employment came into effect.
A similar order is coming later this month for health care workers in acute and community care settings.
For one of the largest LTCs, Menno Place in Abbotsford with 675 employees, that meant nine permanent workers and 19 casual employees were forbidden by a public health order from working and face termination in two weeks unless they get vaccinated, said CEO Karen Biggs.
“Some people chose to retire at this time rather than be vaccinated,” she told Postmedia via email. “Others are on long term disability or leaves so we don’t know their vaccination status.”
The province has collected data from all but four of the 546 long-term and assisted-living homes in the province. Of the 48,897 staff members approximately 96 per cent have had their first dose, and 93 per cent have had both doses.
Any scheduled workers who hadn’t been vaccinated were placed on immediate leave, according to Biggs.
“Unvaccinated staff go on unpaid leave until the (Oct.) 26,” said Biggs. “After that date, if they have not started a vaccination plan, they will be terminated so we can post their positions permanently, with benefits.”
Workers who choose not to be vaccinated will face “definite employment consequences,” said Mike Old of the Hospital Employees’ Union, which represents 20,000 of the workers in senior homes, most of them care aides.
He said the union has an obligation to support its members and would review any grievances on merit. And he said “anybody can go the B.C. human rights tribunal” with a complaint but he admitted the odds of winning a decision at the tribunal are slim.
Old said long-term and assisted-living homes are required by law to ensure all workers are vaccinated. Workers will have a chance to apply for a medical exemptions but conditions for those are strict, he added.
Under new provisions of the health order released this weekend, workers with one dose as of Tuesday could continue to work as long as they wear PPE, get regular rapid tests and plan a second dose in 28 to 35 days.
Those with zero doses can keep their jobs if they get their first dose before Oct. 25, after which they would remain off work for another seven days and then will need to follow the same prevention precautions when resuming work.