Skip to main content
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
Get full digital access to globeandmail.com
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
// //

The vast majority of staff members at British Columbia’s long-term care and assisted living facilities are vaccinated, but about 2,000 people have now been placed on unpaid leave because they had not received COVID-19 shots by the province’s Tuesday deadline for workers in the sector.

The unvaccinated contingent makes up only 4 per cent of long-term care workers and 3 per cent of assisted living workers in the province. Their unpaid leave will initially last two weeks, but the province has said workers who continue to refuse vaccination will face escalating penalties, including the loss of their jobs.

A handful of long-term care homes in B.C. are expected to suffer staffing shortages as a result of the vaccine enforcement. Some of those facilities have received support from the province, but others will face challenges in coming weeks, Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters Tuesday.

Story continues below advertisement

He said a significant portion of the people who are not yet vaccinated are casual workers.

“If a long-term care or assisted-living worker refuses to be vaccinated, they will be in breach of the provincial health officer’s Residential Care Preventative Measures order, the Public Health Act and employer policy. It will be subject to progressive discipline up to, and including, termination,” Mr. Dix said.

Under B.C.’s vaccine mandate for long-term care and assisted living staffers, each of the roughly 49,000 people working in the province’s facilities had until Oct. 12 to get at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In August, when the province announced the mandate, it said all workers needed to have both doses by Oct. 12. But it relaxed the mandate last week because of concerns about staffing issues in the sector.

Under the modified guidelines, staff members who had received only one shot by Tuesday will be allowed to continue working, provided they undergo daily rapid testing, wear personal protective equipment and receive their second doses within 28 to 35 days. Unvaccinated workers who receive their first shots before Oct. 26 can return to work seven days after inoculation.

“There’s still an opportunity for workers to get the vaccine from our perspective. We hope that the very small number of workers who have not yet made that decision take this opportunity to get their questions answered,” said Mike Old, a spokesperson with the Hospital Employees’ Union, which represents about 50,000 workers across various parts of B.C.’s health care system.

“We really need skilled and experienced workers to remain in the health care system. We have a huge staffing crisis and we need them on the front line helping our seniors.”

Story continues below advertisement

Terry Lake, chief executive officer of the BC Care Providers Association, which represents senior care providers in the province, said on Tuesday that he believed the situation was manageable so far.

Figures provided by Mr. Dix show differences in vaccination rates among long-term care workers from region to region. Only 89 per cent of long-term workers at B.C.’s Northern Health authority have received first doses, compared to 94 per cent at Interior Health, 97 per cent at Fraser Health, 98 per cent at Vancouver Coastal Health and 95 per cent at Vancouver Island Health. Mr. Dix said four of the province’s care homes have vaccination rates of less than 85 per cent among their staff.

Karen Biggs, CEO of Menno Place in Abbotsford, a 700-bed complex with 675 staff members, said some of her employees have chosen to retire or to accept termination rather than be vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, nine regular staff members and 19 casuals remained unvaccinated, she said.

“We go into overtime almost every single day because of shortages,” she added. She said she is losing one registered nurse and four recreation aides as a result of the vaccine mandate.

“They are very hard to find. When you have specific categories that you’re losing, it makes it very tough.”

Story continues below advertisement

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies