Care homes in B.C.’s Interior plan for possible staffing impact as vaccine deadline looms |

Long-term care homes and assisted living facilities in B.C.’s Interior are planning for possible staffing disruptions as a deadline for all workers to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine looms.

While the vast majority of staff in the province are vaccinated, in B.C.’s Interior it appears a significant fraction of staff has yet to roll up a sleeve.

On Tuesday, data provided by the province’s health minister indicated seven percent of staff in long-term care in B.C.’s Interior and five percent of staff in assisted living in the region were unvaccinated.

However, the province cautioned on Wednesday that some facilities haven’t yet provided their data so staff vaccination rate data is expected to change as more information is submitted.

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The provincial health officer said if staff members don’t have at least one dose by next Tuesday, they will be ineligible to work will be “off work as of that day without pay.”

“Health-care workers often reflect attitudes that they encounter in their communities. I would say that some health-care workers just still have questions they need to get answered and it’s important for those workers to seek out credible sources of information,” said Mike Old, a spokesperson for the Hospital Employees’ Union which represents thousands of workers in long-term care and assisted living.

“We are concerned that there will be some care homes where there will be some staffing issues. It’s really important in the days and weeks ahead that we try and encourage long-term care workers and assisted living workers, who have really worked so hard over the last 18 months, to make those critical decisions about getting vaccinated.

“We need to keep them in the workforce. They’ve got skills and experience that we require right now to care for seniors.”

Data provided by B.C.’s health minister on Tuesday about vaccination rates among long-term care staff. The Health Ministry said more data is still being collected and the numbers are expected to change.

One employer, Park Place Seniors Living, which has sites across B.C., including in the Interior, says vaccination rates at most of its locations province-wide are “looking very good.”

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“We do have a couple of homes that are more challenged,” said Park Place’s chief nursing officer Sharon Cook.

Originally the province said staff would need to be fully vaccinated by October 12, but later modified that requirement.

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Cook is hoping the extra time will “give the staff a little bit more time to think about this and feel safe to get vaccinated.”

“The couple of homes that are a little bit more challenged might have to close some of the beds but that is not the majority of our homes so far,” Cook said.

In the Interior, staff vaccination rates are over 90 per cent at the majority of Park Place’s sites, Cook said.

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Seniors advocate releases 45-page review of COVID-19 outbreaks at B.C. care homes

The Good Samaritan Society, which runs five care homes in B.C.’s Interior, is not sure yet how many staff won’t be able to work after Tuesday’s deadline as more staff are getting vaccinated each day.

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Society president Katherine Chubbs said B.C.-wide, 87 per cent of staff have one dose and 81 percent have two doses.

With vaccination rates changing all the time, the society is trying to anticipate what staffing levels will look like on Tuesday and prepare for even a worst-case scenario.

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“We are continuing to work with Interior Health to plan strategies, as we always do if we were to have a change in our staffing levels as a result of this or anything else,” Chubbs said.

“That could include increasing our volume of agency staff or Interior Health supporting us with staffing. It could include us changing some of our routines in terms of the work that we do day-to-day.”

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However, even as the society braces for a staffing impact, it’s very supportive of the vaccine mandate.

“We know we deal with the most vulnerable in our society and the people who have been hit the hardest by COVID so this is absolutely a necessary step. As difficult as it is, it is necessary,” Chubbs said.

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The provincial government, employers, and a union are all hoping more of the remaining unvaccinated staff will get vaccinated before Tuesday’s deadline.

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B.C. care homes want staff included in third dose booster vaccines

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