Long-term care association calls for mandatory vaccines for Manitoba care home workers

Manitoba’s Long Term & Continuing Care Association says all care home workers should be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Executive director Jan Legeros says this wouldn’t be a new policy for health care workers.

“It’s healthcare — and if you choose to work in healthcare, you will have to make choices about how you care for people you’ve committed to look after,” Legeros says.

“When I went into nursing, we had to be vaccinated against everything you can think of before we could even get near a patient.”

Currently, newly hired health care workers and students in Manitoba must show proof of vaccination for:

  • rubella
  • measles
  • hepatitis B
  • chickenpox
  • tuberculosis

Shared Health also says staff and students are also encouraged to maintain immunizations for diphtheria, the mumps and polio, as well as influenza and chicken pox.

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Legeros’ statements are echoed across the country, as both the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association also call for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers.

“Mandatory vaccinations, in health care at least, are the way of the future,” Legeros says.

One Winnipeg labour and employment lawyer believes policies must first be put in place to accommodate people who cannot be immunized.

“Given the current law as it relates to flu shots and other vaccines, it is our view that mandatory COVID vaccine policies for those working with vulnerable persons/populations are reasonable,” says Benjamin Hecht, partner at Pitblado Law.

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“However, a policy must make accommodation for those who cannot be vaccinated. Personal choice does not require accommodation,” he says.

Legeros says her organization has been in talks with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Shared Health Authority and government about implementing the policy.

In a statement, the province says staff who work at multiple personal care homes continue to provide proof of vaccination, while staff not immunized can only work at a single PCH.

Read more: Vaccinated care home staff can now work at multiple locations

Earlier this summer, long-term care facility company Revera put a vaccination policy in place for staff members.

Staff at any 12 of the company’s facilities are required to be immunized or provide a medical proof as to why they can’t be, she says.

“If they still refuse, they would attend an education session that would help them understand the importance of being immunized.”

Existing staff members who continue to refuse, must undergo a rapid COVID-19 test each shift and wear PPE, Legeros says.

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