Forcing health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be put on unpaid leave – and ultimately lose their jobs if they chose still not to comply with the provincial order – was “not done lightly,” says Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin, chief medical officer for the Fraser Health Authority.
“It is a very individualized process for those who have chosen not to be immunized,” she said. “These individuals are not terminated abruptly or immediately, they are initially placed on leave without pay and then over time the process will go to termination if they continue to make a decision that they do not wish to be vaccinated.”
Provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix said Monday that 3,325 health care workers have been place on unpaid leave because they are not vaccinated against COVID-19. Of those, 587 – or two per cent – are in Fraser Health.
Brodkin said the risk to patients is “always there” and it just takes one infected person to bring a disease to someone who may not be able to protect themselves.
“It could have devastating, or even fatal outcomes and the bar is so high for us to protect those who are under our care that Dr. Henry made a decision to require anybody working in health care in the province to be vaccinated,” she said.
“No individuals have yet been terminated at this time,” Brodkin said on Oct. 27, “and we will continue to support anyone who is terminated long after that happens in order to ensure that we support them as best we can in their future career choices.”
Meantime, the Fraser Health Authority is currently experiencing a backlog in volunteering applications because of COVID-19, frustrating people looking to help out while at the same time gain Canadian experience in health care.
“Some sites closed their volunteer application links due to the backlog,” said board member Inderjeet Singh Hundal. “For instance, Surrey Memorial currently has 900-plus volunteer applications currently to be processed. There have been limited volunteer opportunities due to COVID.”
On the lighter side, hospitals are not typically known for their fine table fare. But the Fraser Health Authority is trying to fix that.
“We do provide where possible choices for people both in long-term care and in the hospital situation,” notes Jim Sinclair, chairman of the board for Fraser Health Authority.
However, Surrey Memorial Hospital, Peace Arch Hospital and Langley Memorial Hospital “do not have on-site food, and we all agree they should.”
Sinclair says the FHA will build a new kitchen at PAH “for local food, and then we’re going to move to Langley and finally tackle Surrey Memorial.”
“Over the next period of time we’ll reach a point where all of that food is being delivered on site and prepared on site,” he said.