Just over 3,000 health-care workers have been placed on unpaid leave following the implementation of B.C.’s vaccine mandate for the sector.
During a press conference on Monday (Nov. 1), Health Minister Adrian Dix said that 3,325 workers have been placed on unpaid leave because they are unvaccinated against COVID-19. Dix said that as of midnight Sunday, 122,059 of the 127,448 health-care workers – or 95.8 per cent – who have worked at least one shift in last three months are fully vaccinated. Another 2,064 are partially immunized.
Dix said that 587 (2 per cent) health-care workers in Fraser Health are unvaccinated, 320 (four per cent) workers in Northern Health are unvaccinated, 480 (two per cent) of workers in Vancouver Coastal Health, 1,018 (five per cent) of workers in Interior Health, 480 (two per cent) of workers in Island Health and 104 (one per cent) of workers at Providence Health Care. The latter staff work at facilities in Vancouver, including St. Paul’s Hospital and Mount Saint Joseph Hospital.
The health minister called the number of unvaccinated health-care workers a “challenge,” adding that it has been the biggest struggle in Interior Health. That region, along with eastern Fraser Health and Northern Health, has been under extended COVID rules.
Dix said that staffing challenges have led to some operating rooms being shut for the week in Interior Health, as well as a slowdown in lab results in places like Keremeos.
More specifically, two operating rooms have been shuttered for the week at Kelowna General Hospital to compensate for unvaccinated staff. That hospital has also postponed non-urgent eye care procedures in order to respond to critical care needs. Royal Inlands Hospital in Kamloops has seen “a number of” inpatient surgeries postponed, replaced by same-day surgeries.
In Fraser Health, a “very small number” of surgeries have been postponed, Dix said, due to unvaccinated staff. Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Royal Columbian Hospital are each continuing to reduce one operating room due to demand for critical care. Abbotsford will focus on same-day surgeries to not take up beds.
While unvaccinated staff have not closed operating rooms in Vancouver Coastal Health, Dix said that ongoing demand for critical care has led to two operating rooms closing at Lions Gate Hospital, three at St. Paul’s Hospital, one at Mount Saint Joseph and one at Richmond Hospital.
“Plans are in place to resume surgeries in these operating rooms beginning in the new year in Richmond Hospital and in February at St. Paul’s, Lions Gate and Mount Saint Joseph,” Dix said.