Healthcare workers impacted by B.C.'s COVID-19 vaccine mandates are organizing to advocate for the return of their jobs.
A “Hire back our Heroes” digital billboard went live on West Kelowna’s Bridge Hill on Monday, but the people behind it don’t want to be lumped in with the anti-vaccine billboards that have covered the area for months.
“This isn't an ‘anti-vaccine’ campaign,” said Dr. Joshua Nordine of Rutland Medical Associates in an email to Castanet.
“We believe covid is entering an endemic state and it is time to allow public health care workers and other public service employees to return to work with reasonable safety protocols in place that will allow us to remain at work now and during any future infectious surge.”
Staffing challenges have left parts of B.C.’s healthcare system in a dire state. Small town emergency departments are routinely closing temporarily, cancer treatments, seniors care and X-ray services are all struggling to find workers.
The provincial government has noted the relatively small number of healthcare workers impacted by the mandates as they keep them in place. Last month, the BC Liberals called for the provincial government to follow Ottawa’s lead and suspend vaccine requirements for public servants and healthcare workers.
“British Columbia is out of step with the rest of the country in this regard,” said party leader Kevin Falcon. “We’ve got a situation now that just warrants the immediate lifting of the vaccine mandate.”
In the Interior Health region, nearly 900 employees—over four per cent of the workforce—were forced off the job. Just 21 IH care home employees were terminated.
But Dr. Nordine says those statistics don’t tell the full story.
“While it’s easy to dismiss these professionals to the public as small in number hidden behind closed hospital doors, each person has a huge impact for our patients and delivery of healthcare,” he said.
In his own case, Dr. Nordine says he is no longer allowed to work at the detox clinic in Kelowna even in a telehealth capacity.
“This makes no sense as I can still work at my private clinic, which is only a four minute walk from the detox centre, seeing patients face to face including ‘high risk’ and ‘immunocompromised’ patients,” he said.
He can also no longer have patients accepted into the local hospice and can no longer order blood transfusions or iron infusions for community-based patients.
“It is too bad the various unions and advocacy groups have failed to openly advocate for their workers right to medical autonomy. Why are hospital boards and regulatory colleges continuing to rubber stamp policies without question and the news agency failing to advocate against illogical policies.”
“Now is the time to hire back all our health care heroes,” he concluded.
Health Minister Adrian Dix last month that he doesn’t expect any changes to its healthcare related vaccine mandates “anytime soon.”
The health minister said the problem is not the mandates but COVID-19, which continues to profoundly affect the health-care system. He said there is ongoing need to protect residents of long-term care and assisted living, as well as patients in acute-care settings and the larger health-care system.
with a file from the Victoria Times Colonist