Health & Safety
Nova Scotia in talks to let workers who refused vaccination back on the job
HALIFAX (CP) — Nova Scotia is looking at ways to get public sector workers who refused to be vaccinated under the province’s COVID-19 mandates back to work.
Premier Tim Houston confirmed following a cabinet meeting Thursday that talks are ongoing on the “return to work.”
However, Houston cautioned it might not happen for all employees in the public sector and civil service who were placed on unpaid administrative leave in early December after failing to meet the deadline for vaccination.
The premier said there are higher risk areas on the front lines of health and long-term care that will likely still require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 when the mandates are eventually lifted.
Although no final decisions have been made, Houston said it’s his belief that COVID-19 vaccines will be added to the list of existing vaccinations that are needed to work in the health field.
“It’s not new for people that work in health care to have to have a slate of vaccinations. This is something that has been around for a long time,” he said.
However, a spokesman for Nova Scotia’s health authority said currently the only mandatory vaccine as a condition of employment is the COVID-19 shot.
“We do have some occupations that require vaccination, but if the employee or new hire is unwilling to be vaccinated, they would be subject to alternative placement,” Brendan Elliott said in an email.
“The difference with COVID -19 is we don’t even proceed with the hire if they are not vaccinated.”
82 off without pay
Colton LeBlanc, the minister responsible for the public service commission, said a total of 82 civil servants from across government departments are on administrative leave without pay because they are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
LeBlanc said there were no terminations as a result of government workers refusing to be vaccinated, although some of them retired. He didn’t have a specific number for the retirements.
“It is the intention of having folks return to work and in different fields,” he said.
“How we get to that point and exactly what fields, there’s still some things to iron out.”
In early December the province reported that more than 1,000 public sector and government workers had been placed on unpaid leave, including 963 workers in front-line health care, continuing care, education and corrections.
Restrictions being lifted
Houston announced on Wednesday the province will lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions on March 21, including the indoor mask requirement for public spaces and in schools.
Education Minister Becky Druhan said her department has relied on the advice of public health officials throughout the pandemic, and that includes the decision to remove the masking requirement. “I have confidence in public health’s assessment of this,” she said.
Meanwhile, health officials reported five new hospital admissions due to novel coronavirus and six discharges on Thursday. A total of 46 patients were receiving specialized care in a designated COVID-19 unit, including 12 who were in intensive care.
An additional 187 new lab-confirmed cases were also reported, and officials estimated 1,903 active cases in the province.
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