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Canada's overworked healthcare sector brace for staff shortages as vaccine mandates loom – National Post

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The uncertainty sparked by vaccine mandates underscores the challenges on the road to recovery

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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.

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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.

  1. A signs marks a City of Calgary mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Eau Claire near the Peace Bridge on Sept. 22, 2021.

    Matt Gurney: The federal vaccine mandate is a big stick, but who’s it really hitting?

  2. Paramedics transport an elderly man to the hospitals emergency department during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., in Nov., 2020.

    ‘Perfect storm:’ Ontario health sector braces for worse staff shortages as vaccine mandates come due

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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% of staff, after its vaccine mandate came into effect. A long-term care home in Toronto put 36% of its staff on unpaid leave after they refused to get vaccinated, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp reported.

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Nurses do rounds inside the COVID-19 unit of a Montreal hospital, on February 16, 2021.
Nurses do rounds inside the COVID-19 unit of a Montreal hospital, on February 16, 2021. Photo by Allen McInnis/Postmedia

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.

Some 97% of long-term care staff in Vancouver and the surrounding areas have at least one dose as of Oct. 6, the province said. But northern B.C. has only 89% of staff with at least one dose, although the data was still being updated.

The province recently changed the deadline, giving more time for people to receive their second vaccine dose. “It is because we know we have a very limited healthcare resource,” Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s medical officer, said.

‘POLITICAL’ DECISION

Quebec is offering C$15,000 bonuses to help attract and retain about 4,300 full-time nurses. Some 25,000 healthcare workers who are yet not fully vaccinated ahead of an Oct. 15 deadline risk suspension without pay, said Christian Dubé, the province’s health minister.

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Some 97% of all staff in University Health Network, which operates medical facilities in and around Toronto, Ontario, has been vaccinated ahead of Oct. 22, with efforts underway to find backup for the remaining.

Daniel Lublin, a Toronto-based employment lawyer, called the mandates “very political” and based on the majority view that vaccines are good. “The fallout is that it’s another segment of the Canadian workforce that is going to be faced with job loss if they choose not to vaccinate.”

Registered nurse Linda Wright speaks to a patient in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey, B.C., June 4.
Registered nurse Linda Wright speaks to a patient in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey, B.C., June 4. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which represents 215,000 federal workers, said while the union supports the government’s vaccination stance, its members who do not get inoculated should not be punished.

“Especially when remote work options are available that do not jeopardize the health and safety of co-workers and allow our members to continue to serve Canadians,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC president.

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Treasury Board, which oversees the public administration, is engaged with PSAC and other labor representatives about the implementation of the mandate, a government source said.

Nurses close the curtains of a patients room in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey, B.C., Friday, June 4.
Nurses close the curtains of a patients room in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital in Surrey, B.C., Friday, June 4. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Louis Hugo Francescutti, an emergency room physician in Edmonton, said he worked with several people who were continuing to refuse vaccination, even though it would cost them their jobs when the mandate takes effect on Oct. 31.

Alberta has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Canada, and its hospitals have been overwhelmed by the fourth wave.

“We’re so under the water right now that losing a couple of people who don’t want to get vaccinated – it’s going to be sad (but) the impact will be minimal,” Francescutti said. (Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver, Additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal, Steve Scherer and Julie Gordon in Ottawa Editing by Denny Thomas and Chizu Nomiyama)

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Panama, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic ask for U.S. help on migration

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The presidents of panama, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic on Wednesday asked for U.S. assistance in stemming the flow of thousands of migrants crossing the dangerous jungles that divide Panama and Colombia as they make their way to the United States.

Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo hosted a meeting with Costa Rica’s Carlos Alvarado Quesada and Dominican Republic’s Luis Abinader in Panama City on Wednesday, where they discussed the burgeoning migrant crisis.

Cortizo said that so far this year a record number of more than 100,000 undocumented migrants have trekked north from Colombia through the Darien Gap, a lawless jungle teeming with everything from deadly snakes to anti-government guerrillas.

The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said earlier this month that some 19,000  migrant children have crossed the Darien Gap so far in 2021, almost three times higher than the total for the previous five years.

Cortizo said the situation demands concrete solutions and that Washington should play an active role in assisting.

The Latin American leaders agreed “that our foreign ministers urgently articulate with the U.S. authorities and other countries to … look for concrete measures,” he added.

The presidents discussed the possibility of establishing a strategy of investments and job creation in Haiti, home to many of the migrants.

Cortizo said that he is seeking a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden during the United Nations’ COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

In early 2021, Panamanian authorities had warned of a possible crisis after opening the borders that had for months been closed because of the pandemic.

By September, the immigration authorities of the Central American nation reported a record number of 91,305 migrants who entered from neighboring Colombia. Of these, 56,676 were Haitians and 12,870 Cubans.

 

(Reporting by Elida Moreno; Writing by Anthony Esposito Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, and said Americans can choose a shot that is different than their original inoculation.

The decision paves the way for millions more people in the United States to get the additional protection with the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus causing breakthrough infections among some who are fully vaccinated.

The agency previously authorized boosters of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months after the first round of shots to increase protection for people aged 65 and older, those at risk of severe disease and those who are exposed to the virus through their work.

Last week, an advisory panel to the FDA voted to recommend a third round of shots of the Moderna vaccine for the same groups.

WATCH | U.S. will now accept Canadian travellers with mixed doses: 

U.S. will now accept Canadian travellers with mixed COVID-19 vaccine doses

5 days ago

The United States has confirmed that Canadians that had different COVID-19 vaccines for their first and second dose will be recognized as fully vaccinated. The U.S. will be implementing travel restrictions on Nov. 8, only permitting fully vaccinated travellers into the country. 2:09

The panel also recommended a second shot of the J&J vaccine for all recipients of the one-dose inoculation at least two months after receiving their first.

The FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were under some pressure to authorize the additional shots after the White House announced plans in August for a widespread booster campaign.

The advisory panel meeting included a presentation of data on mixing vaccines from a U.S. National Institutes of Health study in which 458 participants received some combination of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and J&J shots.

The data showed that people who initially got J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine had a stronger immune response when boosted with either the Pfizer or Moderna shot, and that “mixing and matching” booster shots of different types was safe in adults.

Many countries including Canada and the U.K. have backed mix-and-match strategies for the widely-used AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which is not authorized in the United States but is based on similar viral vector technology as J&J’s vaccine.

WATCH | Booster shots not yet needed for most, says specialist: 

COVID-19 booster shots not needed for most people yet, says specialist

14 days ago

Canadians who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 might see longer immunity if their shots were spaced further apart than recommended by the vaccine makers, says Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious diseases specialist in Montreal who said most people don’t need booster shots at this time. (Evan Mitsui/CBC) 4:51

Reuters reported in June that infectious disease experts were weighing the need for booster shots of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine after the J&J shot.

A CDC advisory committee on Thursday will make its recommendations about which groups of people should get the Moderna and J&J boosters, which the agency’s director will use to inform her final decision.

About 11.2 million people have so far received a booster dose, according to data from the CDC.


What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Vaccines for kids could face hurdles after approval: 

COVID-19 vaccines for kids could face hurdles after approval

23 hours ago

Health Canada is reviewing data for the first COVID-19 vaccine for younger children, but even if it’s approved, the hurdles could include vaccine supply, distribution and getting some parents on board. 3:38

  • Pandemic restriction opponents line up behind Manitoba PC leadership hopeful.
  • Some unvaccinated municipal workers in northeastern Ontario sent home.
  • N.L. sees 9 cases as officials make tweaks to fix vaccine passport issues.

What’s happening around the world

As of Wednesday, more than 241.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to the latest figures posted by Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.9 million, according to the U.S-based university’s coronavirus tracker.

In Europe, Russia will shut workplaces for a week, Latvia went back into lockdown for a month and Romanian funeral homes are running out of coffins, as vaccine-skeptic ex-communist countries face record highs of infections and deaths.

In Africa, Kenya lifted a nationwide curfew on Wednesday that has been in place since March 2020 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

In the Americas, 41 per cent of people across Latin America and the Caribbean have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Pan American Health Organization said.

In Asia, China reported a fourth day of new, locally transmitted cases in a handful of cities across the country, spurring local governments to double down on efforts to track potential carriers amid the zero-tolerance policy.

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N.Korea says U.S. overreacting over submarine missile test

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North Korea said on Thursday the United States was overreacting to its recent missile test and questioned the sincerity of Washington’s offers of talks, warning of consequences.

This week’s test of a new ballistic missile from a submarine was part of North Korea’s mid- and long-term plan to bolster self defense and was and not aimed at the United States or any other country, an unnamed spokesperson at Pyongyang’s foreign ministry said, according to the official KCNA news agency.

Washington had taken “overly provocative moves” by calling the test a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and a threat to regional peace and stability, the spokesperson said.

The Security Council met on Wednesday over the launch at the request of the United States and Britain, and the U.S. envoy urged Pyongyang to accept offers of talks, reiterating that Washington has no hostile intent toward it.

The foreign ministry spokesperson said the United States’ “double standards” over missile development cast doubt over its overtures.

“It is a clear double standard that the United States denounces us for developing and testing the same weapons system it already has or was developing, and that only adds suspicions to their sincerity after saying they have no hostility towards us,” the spokesperson said in a statement carried by KCNA.

The United States and the council could face “more grave and serious consequences” if they opted for wrong behaviour, the spokesperson said, warning against “fiddling with a time bomb.”

 

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; editing by Richard Pullin)

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