Staff are on standby for relocation, and contingency plans are in place if Manitoba sees a significant number of health workers excluded from their jobs as a new vaccination deadline comes next week.
Health and senior care minister Audrey Gordon said Friday that there are still “pockets everywhere in the five [health] regions “in the province with frontline workers not vaccinated against COVID-19.
In three days, all unvaccinated health and personal care workers must undergo tests every 48 hours. If they refuse, they will be put on unpaid leave.
Shared Health, the organization that coordinates health services in the province, said of the 42,000 health workers affected by the new requirements that 31,508 had completed the process of revealing vaccination status as of Friday.
Of those, 29,707 indicated that they had been vaccinated, of which 26,220 have been validated through verification processes. Shared Health said 1,801 workers have so far been identified as unvaccinated and must undergo regular testing.
More results are expected over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the province is working with the leaders of all regional health authorities to break through the myths and misinformation out there that are causing the hesitation with vaccines.
This effort is centered around “the science behind the vaccine’s effectiveness in curbing fear of individuals,” Gordon said.
Asked how worried she is after a 19-month pandemic that there are still health professionals willing to leave the job instead of being vaccinated or regularly tested, Gordon said she is not focused on shame or blame .
“This is a time of compassion and kindness and listening and understanding,” she said.
“What I’m saying to these people is that we will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you in terms of helping you navigate some of the issues surrounding the unwillingness to be vaccinated or tested.”
Shared health has been more assertive in its language towards health workers.
Apart from being immediately placed on unpaid leave, non-vaccinated workers who do not comply with regular tests have been told that they do not receive pension contributions and do not have access to banks with holidays, illness, state or overtime during the duration of the leave. .
Asked about it, Gordon simply acknowledged that it addresses “the spirit and language of the public health order.”
In terms of how prepared the province is to address staff shortages, Gordon said many contingency plans are being considered, and one of them is to make family members aware that their assistance may be required in nursing homes.
In a letter sent by Salem Home care home in Winkler earlier this week, resident families are asked to consider volunteering to wash clothes, feed residents, clean their rooms, dress them and brush their teeth, and create activity plans for residents.
“That does not necessarily mean that it will be the case, but we would certainly make family members aware that this is one of the contingency plans we may need to draw up,” Gordon said, adding that she planned to meet with officials from Southern Health region Friday to discuss contingency plans.
Gordon was asked why these plans are not already in place, rather than waiting until the last minute. She said the province has several draft plans ready, but they are in “a state of flux” because it depends on where the greatest need will come on Monday.
Like Salem Home, the Murder-based nursing home Tabor Home sent a letter to families on Thursday advising them to be ready to be called for help.
“If we do not have enough staff, we may need to go a step further and ask that you bring your loved one home to care for them,” the letter said.
Vaccine intake is lowest in southern Manitoba, where both of these nursing homes are located. The proportion of people with at least one COVID-19 vaccine in Southern Health is 67.1 percent, compared to the provincial average of 86.1 percent.
Winkler and the surrounding rural community of Stanley have the lowest admissions of fully vaccinated individuals at 42.9 percent and 24.8 percent, respectively.
Southern Health CEO Jane Curtis said the health sector is primarily focused on the Salem and Tabor nursing homes to get staff on board with the new mandate, but “there are pockets across our region and we are working on all of our sites to ensure that we’re talking to the staff. “
A variety of arrangements are made, from customizing food menus in nursing homes to simpler recipes in the event of a shortage of kitchen staff, to preparing to mix staff around places as needed.
“It’s all things that are in the wings. We don’t implement them until we know we have to, but everyone is kind of ready to do it,” Curtis said.
She was asked about the requests for families to help in understaffed nursing homes and if it would bring so much external help to spread coronavirus.
Curtis said anyone who might come in should be fully vaccinated or regularly tested, and that is better than no help at all. She also made it clear that no family is required to help, only those with the capacity to do so.
“We would never put a family in a position where they had to come in, but we know there are families out there who would be willing and happy for that,” she said.
“I just want to say to those families that we want to take care of their loved ones.”
The new public health executive orders, which enter into force on 18 October, apply to provincial staff working in health care, long-term care, schools, day care centers, emergency services and vulnerable populations.