COVID-19 vaccination mandate deadline approaching for N.S.'s public sector workers
All provincial employees and those who fall under Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate are required to have at least one dose of vaccine by Tuesday, Nov. 30.
Those who are partially vaccinated may be subject to other health and safety measures, including testing, while those who do not have a first dose by the deadline will face employment consequences, including unpaid leave.
At this point, it’s unclear how many employees could be placed on unpaid leave when the mandate comes into effect.
"There seems to be some concerns that we don't know for certain whether or not this is going to impact staffing, but I think that actually points to a bigger problem. Which is that we shouldn't have a system that runs so bare to the bone that minor staffing disruptions can cause this much of a threat,” said Chris Parsons with the Nova Scotia Health Coalition.
Meena MacIsaac, the CEO of Grand View Manor in Berwick, N.S., said like others in the long-term care sector, they were already under significant pressure before the pandemic and looming vaccine mandate.
"In the last three weeks, we've had 19 resignations. Some of them would of course be as a result of the vaccine mandate,” MacIsaac said.
According to MacIsaac, the gaps in staffing means employees are getting burnt out. She said the root cause of staffing shortages in long-term care needs to be addressed to turn the situation around, starting with compensation.
"Our CCA's are the core of our staffing within the province in long-term care and their salaries start at $17.50 an hour, and that's for uncertified CCA's and in Nova Scotia. A CCA that's certified tops out at three years' experience at $18.96,” said MacIsaac. “They can go and get a job in retail or in food services and make just as much."
MacIsaac said she is thankful to staff and designated caregivers for all of their support during this time.
As of Nov. 23, 95 per cent of long-term care employees were fully vaccinated and three per cent were partially vaccinated, with 95 per cent reporting.
Ninety-nine per cent of employees at the IWK Health Centre were double-dosed as of last week and one per cent were partially vaccinated, with 99 per cent reporting.
Meantime, 97 per cent of those in education were fully vaccinated and another two per cent had one shot, with 90 per cent reporting.
Paul Wozney, the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, said it’s unclear if there will be an impact on operations if some employees are placed on unpaid leave.
"It's impossible to know how many of that one per cent of people aren't vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons and how many might be put on unpaid medical leave. It's less than 91 people in total that are not vaccinated and we know there are definitely people who aren't vaccinated because there are legitimate medical reasons,” said Wozney.