Canada's health workers brace for shortages amid vaccine mandates
Already-exhausted health and long-term care sectors in Canada are preparing for staff shortages and layoffs amid mandatory vaccination orders for workers, as unions push federal and provincial governments to soften hard-line stances, News.Az reports citing Reuters.
For hospitals and nursing homes, a shortage of workers would strain the already overburdened workforce dealing with nearly two years of the pandemic. The uncertainty sparked by vaccine mandates underscores the challenges on the road to recovery.
Devon Greyson, assistant professor of public health at the University of British Columbia, said officials are steering into uncharted waters with mass vaccine mandates, and it's not clear how workers will respond.
"A shortage of workers can mean people's health and well being. It's scary," Greyson said.
However, he added, "we're in an ethical situation where it's also scary not to ensure that all health workers are vaccinated. So it's a bit of a Catch-22."
To tackle staff scarcity, at least one province is offering signing bonuses to nurses. Provinces including Quebec and British Columbia have made it mandatory for health care workers and nursing staff to be vaccinated to continue working in their respective fields.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also unveiled one of the strictest vaccine mandates in the world last week, saying unvaccinated federal employees will be sent on unpaid leave and making COVID-19 shots mandatory for air, train and ship passengers.
Layoffs have are started to hit, with one hospital in southern Ontario last week dumping 57 employees, representing 2.5% of staff, after its vaccine mandate came into effect. A long-term care home in Toronto put 36% of its staff on unpaid leave after they refused to get vaccinated, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp reported.
British Columbia will place staff at its long-term care and assisted living sector on unpaid administrative leave if they fail to get at least one shot by Monday.
Some 97% of long-term care staff in Vancouver and the surrounding areas have at least one dose as of Oct. 6, the province said. But northern B.C. has only 89% of staff with at least one dose, although the data was still being updated.