True North estimates that nearly 10,000 unvaccinated health care workers across Canada have been placed on unpaid leave or had their jobs terminated by health authorities as of Dec. 16. 

This number comes from official provincial government data as well as media reports over the past few months. 

Among provinces and territories, the B.C. government forced the most frontline and long term care workers out of their jobs. The province reported in November that 3,325 personnel were put on unpaid leave after its COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadline expired.

When broken down by health region, Interior Health lost 1,018 workers, Fraser Health lost 587, Vancouver Island and Vancouver Coastal Health shed 480 workers each, Northern Health saw 320 health care professionals put on unpaid leave and Providence Health lost 104. 

As a result of the B.C. government’s mandate, several hospitals experienced shortages, evidenced by operating room closures at Lions Gate Hospital, Richmond Hospital, St. Paul’s Hospital and Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre

Both the B.C. Children’s Hospital and the B.C. Women’s Hospital and Health Centre saw impacts on future surgeries due to the mandates, while delays in surgeries and other procedures occurred at places such as Royal Jubilee Hospital, University Hospital of Northern British Columbia and Bulkley Valley District Hospital

Ontario and Alberta followed B.C. with the highest number of unvaccinated health care worker losses, reporting 1,665 and 1,650 respectively. 

The Alberta Health Services (AHS) revealed earlier this month that both full-time and part-time unvaccinated staff members had been removed from their positions. The AHS would not say which hospitals were impacted, citing privacy concerns. 

Ontario has not implemented a mandatory vaccine requirement for health care workers. Instead, individual hospitals have introduced their own initiatives and laid off workers who do not comply.

Among the most notable cases in Ontario were Unity Health – including St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto – which saw 171 health care workers put on unpaid leave. Ottawa Hospital placed 318 employees on unpaid leave for failing to meet its COVID-19 vaccination policy. 

Saskatchewan came in fourth place with 1,100 health care workers facing consequences for being unvaccinated, although the province has yet to finalize its plans on how to deal with those who won’t comply with vaccination requirements. True North reached out to Saskatchewan Health to find out how many health care workers were put on unpaid leave but did not receive a response. 

In New Brunswick, out of the 2,000 public sector workers who were not vaccinated by the province’s mandate deadline, 734 of them were health care workers in the regional health authorities. As for Nova Scotia, the province has placed 531 health care professionals on unpaid leave. 

Newfoundland and Labrador has not revealed how many unvaccinated health care workers have been terminated or suspended. Government health authorities did not respond to inquiries from True North. 

As for P.E.I., Chief Communications Officer of Health Everton McLean told True North that “fewer than 5 staff members (were) affected” by provincial mandates. 

In November, the Quebec government backed down on a vaccine mandate for health care workers after 14,000 were reported to not have received a first-dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. After revising its requirements and introducing testing options, 458 health care professionals were suspended for refusing to comply with the new regulations. 

Similarly, 176 Manitoba health care workers were placed on unpaid leave in October after failing to comply with the province’s vaccination or testing mandate. 

Among the territories, only Yukon has revealed that 14 health care workers were placed on unpaid leave. Nunavut and Northwest Territories have not reported how many health care workers have been placed on leave, and neither territory’s health department responded to inquiries from True North. 

SecondStreet.org released a study on Dec. 9 showing that over 10,000 Canadians died on health care waiting lists in 2020-21.

“Canada is facing extremely large surgical backlogs right now, so when governments fire unvaccinated health care workers that means there are fewer staff to reduce waiting list backlogs,” SecondStreet.org President Colin Craig told True North. “An alternative approach might be to allow unvaccinated staff to take rapid tests before each shift.” 

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