Canada's health and long-term care industries are bracing for staff shortages and layoffs, as deadlines for vaccine mandates loom across the country, with unions pushing federal and provincial governments to soften hard-line stances.
For hospitals and nursing homes, a shortage of workers would strain the already overburdened workforce dealing with nearly two years of the pandemic. The uncertainty sparked by vaccine mandates underscores the challenges on the road to recovery.
Devon Greyson, assistant professor of public health at the University of British Columbia, said officials are steering into uncharted waters with mass vaccine mandates, and it's not clear how workers will respond.
"A shortage of workers can mean people's health and well being. It's scary," Greyson said.
However, he added, "we're in an ethical situation where it's also scary not to ensure that all health workers are vaccinated. So it's a bit of a Catch-22."
To tackle staff scarcity, at least one province is offering signing bonuses to nurses. Provinces including Quebec and British Columbia have made it mandatory for healthcare workers and nursing staff to be vaccinated to continue working in their respective fields.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also unveiled one of the strictest vaccine mandates in the world last week, saying unvaccinated federal employees will be sent on unpaid leave and making Covid-19 shots mandatory for air, train and ship passengers.
Layoffs have are started to hit, with one hospital in southern Ontario last week dumping 57 employees, representing 2.5 percent of staff, after its vaccine mandate came into effect. A long-term care home in Toronto put 36 percent of its staff on unpaid leave after they refused to get vaccinated, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp reported.
British Columbia will place staff at its long-term care and assisted living sector on unpaid administrative leave if they fail to get at least one shot by Monday. (Reuters)
Canada's health sector fears staff shortage over jabs
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