'Time to get tough': Nova Scotia orders healthcare, education workers be vaccinated

Unpaid leave awaits those who fail to comply

'Time to get tough': Nova Scotia orders healthcare, education workers be vaccinated

Healthcare and education workers in Nova Scotia have been ordered to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 30, as the fourth wave of the pandemic promises "deadly consequences" across the province. The mandate covers over 80,000 employees, al; of which be required to present proof of vaccination to their employers. If not fully vaccinated, they’ll be ordered to undergo a mandatory education programme.

Those who refuse will be put on unpaid administrative leave, and the government said they will not "provide employers with any additional funding to cover administrative leaves of absence related to vaccine status."

Those covered by the mandate include:

  • Nova Scotia Health Authority and IWK Health Centre
  • workers in long-term care facilities (licenced and unlicenced) and home-care agencies (publicly and privately funded)
  • public school teachers, pre-primary and other school-based staff, regional and board office staff, and those providing services in schools, including cafeteria and school bus services
  • Hearing and Speech Nova Scotia
  • workers in residential facilities and day programmes funded by the Department of Community Services Disability Support Programme and adult day programmes funded by Department of Seniors and Long-Term Care
  • workers in Department of Community Services facilities and those providing placements for children and youth in the care of the Minister of Community Services (excluding foster family placements)
  • paramedics, LifeFlight nurses and some other staff at Emergency Health Services
  • physicians and other service providers to the above organisations; for example, hairdressers and contractors

Full vaccination will also be required as a condition of employment for these sectors, according to the new mandate. Employers have been urged to formulate their own vaccine policies. Exemptions can be made based on medical reasons. However, the grounds for an exemption are "very specific and limited," said the government.

"There have been three deaths in the last week alone and we need to do whatever we can to make sure other families don't have to grieve their loved one,” added Premier Tim Houston. “Too many Nova Scotians have chosen not to get vaccinated, and some of them work with Nova Scotians most at risk from COVID-19. It is time to get tough.”

Robert Strang, provincial chief medical officer of health, said the mandate was to speed up vaccination rates, which he was "not increasing as fast as we need."

Unions have expressed their support with Nova Scotia's mandate, with Unifor - largest private sector union in Canada - saying it understands the necessity of the requirement.

"Unifor fully understands the importance of mandatory vaccination policies guided by public health officials and experts to protect individuals and others around us," said Linda MacNeil, Unifor Atlantic regional direction, in a statement.

Expansion to legislature?

Meanwhile, Opposition House Leader Derek Mombourquette penned a letter to the Speaker of the House requesting for a vaccine mandate to cover those entering the Province House starting October 4. This is an attempt to show that the legislature is leading by example in ensuring the health and safety of Nova Scotians, according to the official.

"The Liberal caucus is requesting that anyone who enters Province House as of October 4th be required to prove they too are fully vaccinated against COVID-19," requested Mombourquette in the letter. "This will help provide a safe work environment for all our members, staff, and everyone who enters the legislature. Our province needs to continue being a leader in the fight against COVID-19 and because of that, we hope you will fulfill this request," concluded the letter.

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