British Columbia has decided to postpone surgeries and tests after placing 4,000 healthcare workers on unpaid leave due to their decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

According to Health Minister Adrian Dix, northern and rural communities will be the most impacted by the delays since they do not have access to a large pool of casual staff to replace the workers. 

“Let’s say something such as renal (kidney) care, where you have a limited number of employees and one or two of them are not able to work in that circumstance, it’s really challenging,” said Dix. 

“I think it’s fair to say that in some areas, for example diagnostic imaging, our labs in different parts of the province, there’ll be some impact. We’ll either have to initially reduce hours in order to address that or provide other staff in the weeks to come.”

Chief Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has indicated that staff from larger health authorities near Vancouver and elsewhere will temporarily be tasked with filling positions in those areas. 

“We’ll be looking at other parts of the system to supplement areas in the Interior where there’s a shortage of people on a temporary basis,” said Henry.

“We’re hopeful, certainly, that some people, and we’ve been seeing this in the last number of days, will get immunized, and we’re hopeful that they do that and address the problem that way.”

On Tuesday, an additional 1,800 long-term care workers were put on unpaid leave for being unvaccinated. 

As reported by True North, media articles going back to September indicate that tens of thousands of healthcare workers across Canada could face discipline or be fired for being unvaccinated. 

In Quebec, nearly 15,000 nurses faced suspension for being unvaccinated, however, the provincial government recently backed off on its plan after facing protests from nurses and pushed the vaccination deadline into the near future. 

“We will not accept having people in our health-care system who are not vaccinated,” Health Minister Christian Dubé said in September. 

“So if you want to minimize the amount of time during which you will not be paid, go get vaccinated soon.”