Friday, October 15, 2021

Canadian hospitals struggle with staff shortages

Health-care staff shortages could be on the way as COVID-19 vaccine mandates loom | Global News - Emerald Bensadoun:

October 11, 2021 - "Canada is preparing for the worst as provincial COVID-19 vaccine mandates threaten to plunge the country into a sharp uptick of health and long-term care worker shortages and layoffs. For hospitals and nursing homes, a shortage of workers would strain the already overburdened workforce dealing with nearly two years of the pandemic....

"Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare in the Greater Toronto Area, said that Ontario hospitals are already feeling the brunt of these layoffs, resulting in delayed surgeries and medical procedures. 'Unless you’ve got frontline staff to take care of your loved ones, they’re not going to be placed in those beds because there’s nobody there to take care of them,' she said. 'It’s a crisis that I have never seen before, the exodus is extremely alarming.' SEIU Healthcare is a union that represents 60,000 front-line health-care workers across Ontario. Stewart said most union members are fully vaccinated, but even a small percentage of layoffs could have a large impact on the quality of services hospitals will be able to provide.

"Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled Canada’s new mandatory vaccine policy earlier this month. It requires all federal employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of October, though hospitals are not federally regulated workplaces. Layoffs in Canada have already begun, leaving provincial authorities scrambling to make contingency plans ahead of expected staffing shortages.

"The University Health Network told Global News in August they had contacted more than 900 staff out of at least 16,671 employees who have either not given their vaccination status or said they haven’t been vaccinated. Meanwhile, a southwestern Ontario hospital fired 57 employees who failed to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by the beginning of October, representing 1.5 per cent of staff.

"Luc Mathieu, president of the Quebec Order of Nurses, told Global News that the union, which represents roughly 56,500 nurses throughout the province, has made the decision to suspend the licenses of members who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 until they get their shots. He said the vaccine mandate will affect one group of 4,338 nurses who are not adequately protected, including 2,807 who are unvaccinated and 1,541 nurses who have received at least one dose. Another cohort of 5,716 nurses will also be affected because information about those nurses provided by the Ministry of Health doesn’t match the information the Order has on file.

"In British Columbia, all health-care workers must be fully immunized against COVID-19 or receive an exemption from the provincial health officer by Oct. 26. Those who don’t will face unpaid leave and possible unemployment....

"Danielle Larivee, vice-president of the United Nurses of Alberta, expressed concerns about nursing shortages throughout the province, saying that the pandemic had 'exacerbated' an already existing problem....The union represents more than 30,000 registered unions in Alberta, the vast majority of which Larivee said are immunized. Alberta Health Services has required that all frontline health-care providers be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31 ... and any registered staff unable to prove they’ve gotten both doses will be suspended without pay. Larivee said she supports the vaccine mandate.... But she is worried about more seasoned nurses, who she said have already been working 'a substantial amount' of overtime in short-staffed hospitals for almost two years'....

"Stewart said she supports the vaccine mandates, but is worried that they will become 'the straw that broke the camel’s back' for many workers who were already considering leaving the health-care industry.... Stewart said the rate of infections and deaths among health-care workers, combined with poor working conditions, low wages, a lack of full-time work and around-the-clock hours, has made recruiting new hires near impossible."

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