Should laid-off, unvaccinated provincial employees be brought back to work now?

Poll: Bring back workers?

B.C. is sticking with its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for public servants and health-care workers, even though the federal government has suspended its two-shot requirement for federally regulated workers and travellers.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said he continues to support both last year’s provincial health order requiring all health-care workers in hospitals, long-term care homes and community health centres to be vaccinated, as well as the order in council that made vaccinations a condition of employment for public service employees.

“I wouldn’t expect any change in mandates anytime soon,” Dix said in an interview Monday.

B.C. Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon last week called on the B.C. government to follow Ottawa’s lead to suspend the vaccine requirements for provincial employees and health-care workers.

“British Columbia is out of step with the rest of the country in this regard,” said Falcon. “We’ve got a situation now that just warrants the immediate lifting of the vaccine mandate.”

Falcon said the vaccine requirement is worsening the critical shortage of health-care workers that has seen the temporary closing of emergency rooms in rural communities on the Island as well as in the northern and Interior health authorities.

About 190,000 health-care workers — including about 50,000 in long-term care — were required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 under a provincial health order. About 99 per cent were vaccinated and the rest lost their jobs for not doing so.

The B.C. Public Service Agency required its 30,000 employees to be fully vaccinated. As of April 20, it said, 402 employees were either unvaccinated or refused to disclose their vaccination status as required under the COVID-19 vaccination policy, and about 150 had lost their jobs.

The agency said Monday that its vaccination policy remains in place, with almost 99% of employees fully vaccinated. “As the pandemic is not over, and its trajectory remains uncertain, the B.C. Public Service believes it prudent to retain the vaccination policy.”

Falcon said about 2,500 health-care workers and other public service employees are sidelined “at a time when the health-care system is, to use the premier’s own words, crumbling and teetering.”

Dix said the federal government seems to want to overturn both vaccine mandates, “but I disagree with them.”

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.

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