Vaccine deadline looming for B.C. long-term care workers, operators fear losing staff

The new vaccine mandate for long-term care and assisted living workers is set to begin, creating anxiety for some care home operators in B.C.

As of Tuesday, October 12th, all employees working in long-term care or assisted living facilities in B.C. must have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Those who’ve only received one dose will have to undergo daily rapid testing, and receive their second dose within 35 days of their first.

Those who choose not to comply, will be placed on leave without pay.

The province initially said all workers must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 12, however, relaxed it to one dose after operators raised concerns.

"We’re in crisis, we're teetering on the edge of this being really bad,” said Hendrik Van Ryk, the chief operating officer of The Hamlets, which operates five assisted living facilities across the province.

Van Ryk says roughly five percent of their staff remain unvaccinated.

"Even five percent, when the industry is already short staffed, is still significant.”

Mike Klassen of the BC Care Providers Association says the looming deadline is creating high anxiety around the industry.

"It has been very disruptive, as you know, seniors care providers have been struggling with staff shortages for some time now, this exacerbates the situation," he said.

Klassen says health authorities will likely send help to facilities with serious staff shortages.

“We’re hopeful that the seniors in the care homes are going to be ok, despite the changes that have been made.”

Starting Tuesday, Visitors will also have to be at least partially vaccinated, and by Nov. 30, full immunization will be required.