More than 1,000 N.S. public sector workers placed on leave due to vaccine mandate

·3 min read
A health worker prepares Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City, Philippines, in November. (Aaron Favila/The Associated Press - image credit)
A health worker prepares Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City, Philippines, in November. (Aaron Favila/The Associated Press - image credit)

More than 1,000 public sector workers were forced to go on leave from their jobs this week as Nova Scotia's mandatory vaccination policy came into effect.

The mandate, which affects key sectors including health care and education, as well as the civil service, came into effect on Dec. 1. The province released figures Friday afternoon representing the impact as of Dec. 2.

The number of employees placed on leave for each sector is as follows:

  • 29 at the IWK Health Centre.

  • 323 with Nova Scotia Health.

  • 179 in long-term care.

  • 96 in home care.

  • 6 in adult day programs.

  • 174 in education.

  • 2 in correctional services.

  • 4 in emergency health services.

  • 91 in the disability support program, and child and youth caring program.

  • 0 in hearing and speech.

  • 59 in daycares.

  • 93 in the provincial civil service.

An additional 1,923 people have not reported vaccination status or need to provide more information, but were already on leave for another reason. Twenty-four people were granted exemptions from the mandate.

More than 99 per cent of 80,971 public sector workers have reported receiving at least one dose of vaccine.

In a news release, Premier Tim Houston said he was "very proud" of the Nova Scotians who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, especially in light of the new omicron variant.

"The few in both mandates who didn't get vaccinated have made their choice," said Houston. "It's unfortunate they are no longer in the workplace, but I'm glad they won't be putting patients, students, seniors and other vulnerable people at risk."

No impact on health care

Colin Stevenson, vice-president of quality and system performance with Nova Scotia's health authority, said the existing workforce will be able to mitigate the effects of losing 323 staff.

"For Nova Scotians, when it comes to the care and services that Nova Scotia Health is providing, that they won't see an impact or a change which we're pleased about and will continue to sort of ensure that we can meet that mandate," Stevenson said Friday.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press
Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Stevenson said the employees placed on leave because of their vaccination status are "reasonably split" geographically and by profession. About 60 per cent of the health authority's employees on leave are front-line workers and 40 per cent work in administration or support.

After 14 days on leave, employees will be asked to participate in an education course on vaccines, Stevenson said.

If at that point they choose to get vaccinated, they'll remain on leave until two weeks after their second dose. If they choose not to, or don't submit, proof of vaccination, Stevenson said next steps will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Earlier this week the province warned that vaccine-related staffing shortages could cause disruptions to school bus services in the Halifax area, and that existing staff shortages in long-term care could be exacerbated.

On the day the mandate came into effect, Barbara Adams, minister of seniors and long-term care, said so far, the policy was putting little additional strain on the sector.

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