Clarification: Union Response to Mandatory Vaccination Announcement

September 15, 2021
BCNU continues to strongly encourage all nurses, other health-care workers and the public to be vaccinated against COVID-19

In response to the government's announcement on September 13 of its plans to extend the mandatory vaccination order to all health-care workers, yesterday BCNU expressed its support for vaccination while raising concerns that consequences to this order could contribute to the severe nurse shortage in this province.

BCNU has always advocated for vaccination as it provides an important layer of protection against many communicable diseases. We appreciate that a very high percentage of our membership is vaccinated and that nurses value the importance of a science-based approach to public health. Of the small percentage of members who are unvaccinated, BCNU is looking to health employers to extend other precautionary measures such as rapid testing, strict adherence to PPE protocols and redeployment to other care settings where it is safe to do so.

It is important to note the percentage of those who are unvaccinated is not distributed evenly across the province. This reality can pose desperate staffing challenges in worksites where staffing is already stretched extremely thin. Despite repeated requests for government transparency regarding operational and contingency planning to support this new public health order, they have not provided staffing plans for either vaccination order deadline (October 12 or 26). Without these plans in place, there is potential for a significant number of health-care workers to be removed from an already depleted workforce. Taking nurses away from the bedside will have serious impacts on patient care.

We continue to be open to discussing any and all ideas the government and health authorities may have to develop both interim and long-term solutions to the implications a mandatory vaccination strategy could have on staffing levels.

The question for this government is how it intends to staff units where there are unvaccinated staff. The additional stress this is creating in worksites for nurses is unacceptable.

BCNU strongly supports vaccination and evidence-based decision-making. At a time when the union is imploring with health employers to improve staffing levels across this province, we are concerned that the mandatory nature of the vaccination strategy will force members to leave, further exacerbating a staffing shortage that is increasingly unmanageable.

We value the engagement and input of the membership and encourage everyone to stay connected with the union through eNews and other communications channels.

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