A Tory MP is questioning why B.C. is considering allowing vaccinated COVID-positive health-care workers to return to work but not those who are unvaccinated.
“So, vaccinated but Covid positive workers are told to keep working, while unvaccinated workers are forced to stay home even if they are Covid-free? If this is really about protecting the system, why not give daily tests to all & let all Covid-free workers keep it running safely?” Mark Strahl said on Twitter Thursday.
Strahl, who represents the riding of Chilliwack-Hope in British Columbia, was responding to a comment made by the province’s top doctor Bonnie Henry, who told reporters at a press conference Wednesday that officials were weighing the possibility of letting some health-care workers with mild symptoms go back to work, if necessary.
“That is something we have had preliminary plans, for but we’re working with the occupational health and safety folk to make sure we have those criteria identified for health care workers, and making sure we also have plans to be able to substitute other workers and move workers around as needed,” Henry said.
“Obviously if somebody is sick, whether it’s with COVID or any other illness, we don’t want them in a workplace setting because it is a risk to others, but there are certain settings where we need to make sure we have that balancing of continuity of care—health-care workers are one.”
On Sept. 13, B.C. health officials announced that workers and volunteers at all health-care facilities across the province must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Oct. 26, or risk being placed on unpaid leave.
However, by Nov. 1, the province was already facing staff shortages in the health system as more than 3,000 unvaccinated health workers were put on unpaid leave, causing hospitals to postpone some surgeries.
The same situation occurred in Quebec, whose Health Minister Christian Dube announced on Dec. 27 that the province will allow health care personnel who have tested positive for COVID-19 to continue working.
“Omicron’s contagion is so exponential that a huge number of personnel have to be withdrawn, and that poses a risk to the network capacity to treat Quebecers,” Dube said, adding that the government is consulting with unions regarding the policy change.
“It forced us to make a paradigm shift. In previous waves, we wanted to identify and remove at-risk employees as quickly as possible. With the current level of vaccination, we have to do otherwise, we have no choice.”
Manitoba and Ontario have said they are considering similar measures to avoid overwhelming their own health systems.
Meanwhile, Alberta has offered regular testing in a bid to get unvaccinated health employees back to work.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report