Growing pressure on N.S. government to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for health-care workers
With mandatory vaccines looking more and more likely for healthcare workers in Nova Scotia, union reps say government will have to provide alternatives for workers who can't -- or won't -- get the shot.
Still, some say the issue shouldn't be negotiable.
The latter group includes 76-year-old John Dennis.
He will be 77 next month and says he's the oldest living lung transplant patient in Nova Scotia, and one of the oldest in Canada.
Now living at Northwood, he's still coming to terms with the loss of his beloved wife, Penny in June of last year.
It was the height of the first wave, and lockdown orders in long-term care homes kept them apart.
"I never got to physically be with her again, until she was unconscious, two days before she died," Dennis told CTV News
"I don't want to see other people go through it. It's hard."
Word this week of a new case involving a staff-member at Northwood has a great many people on-edge, especially since it's unclear whether the worker was vaccinated.
Northwood says 88 per cent of staff members have had the shot, although it's technically not mandatory, and workers aren't required to report their vaccine status.
All of it is frustrating to the new health minister, who told CTV News Monday change is on the way.
"We are working with a team on a vaccination policy for health care staff in the province of Nova Scotia, and those details will be coming out soon," said Barbara Adams.
Advocates say a growing number of jurisdictions are moving in that direction.
"There are other provinces where they have, in fact, mandated healthcare workers be vaccinated," said Janice Keefe, Chair of the Mount St. Vincent Department of Family Studies & Gerontology.
"Of course, there's always extenuating circumstances, where some people are unable to be vaccinated because of their own health issues."
New Brunswick is among the provinces where vaccines are mandatory for health care workers.
Those who haven't had shots are required to mask and test frequently.
The new regulations take effect at midnight.
Nova Scotia union leaders have been encouraging members to get vaccines for months, but say there are a number of factors to consider.
"There absolutely has to be a balance, so when you look at occupational health and safety rules, in the act, it just states that an employer must keep, not only an employee safe, but keep clients safe as well," said NSGEU President Jason MacLean
"You see it in the private sector, where people are saying you must be vaccinated, but I still don't know how they're compelling the information because anybody can fill out any form and tell you that they have something they simply do not."
There is no grey area for John Dennis, who knows first hands the ravages of COVID-19 -- and says others, should, too.
"I know there are workers who aren't vaccinated. I don't understand how, after Northwood lost so many people to COVID, in 2020, how they can have workers who aren't vaccinated," he said.