Finally, some action on the deadliest front lines of the pandemic.
On August 12th – nearly 18 months after the coronavirus pandemic began – BC finally announced vaccinations would be mandatory for employees and volunteers of long-term care and assisted living facilities.
Talk about Premier John Horgan shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted.
In just less than one year, more than 14,000 care residents and 30 staff across Canada died from COVID-19. Fully eight out of every ten deaths were in care facilities. BC’s long-term care death rate is similarly bad.
These are mind-boggling numbers. Especially when you consider that these deaths largely happened in a group that makes up only one percent of Canada’s total population.
Premier Horgan, what took so long?
Public health officials in BC (yes, you, Dr. Bonnie Henry) and Canada (you too, Dr. Theresa Tam) have been slow to respond.
There is no other way to spin it. The carnage wrought by COVID-19 in our understaffed and under-regulated care facilities was a local, provincial and national tragedy. Heads should roll.
Premier Horgan should be ashamed. Prime Minister Trudeau should be ashamed. In fact, everyone in the provincial and federal governments’ whose job it is to manage long-term care should be fired.
Delta and the fourth wave
After being hammered in the first three waves, senior facilities continue to be the hardest hit by the fourth wave.
Worse yet, it’s not over. There are currently eight outbreaks at seniors facilities in BC. That includes Campbell River’s Discovery Harbour, where three staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Park Place Seniors Living owns this private care home, and vaccination rates among staff at its Campbell River operation are reportedly low.
The fact that vaccine resisters have been allowed to continue working at facilities where they have close contact with some of our most vulnerable citizens is insane.
We get people are reluctant. Government shouldn’t easily intervene in people’s medical decisions. And we can’t fully trust Big Pharma. They often put company profits over their customer’s health.
But the vaccine numbers speak for themselves.
Vaccine’s work. Vaccines reduce transmissions, slow down mutations, and lessen the chance of serious illness, hospitalization and death.
That’s why 81% of British Columbians have overcome their misgivings about Big Pharma and been vaccinated.
What about the holdouts?
If someone’s in a low-risk profession and chooses to allow conspiracy theory and misinformation to guide their decision around vaccinations, then so be it.
Government agencies, and some businesses, may exclude you from some activities, but hey, that’s your choice.
But in high-risk jobs near vulnerable people in the midst of a global pandemic, public health must outweigh individual freedom.
The recent announcement requiring all long-term-care and assisted living workers to be fully vaccinated by fall is welcome news. However, it’s long overdue.
The delay calls into question just how serious the BC and federal governments are about protecting seniors. We know it’s an issue with no simple solutions. But it’s also an issue that requires backbone and commitment.
With the Delta variant spiking COVID rates, there is no time to waste. Vaccination must be a condition of employment at long-term care and assisted living facilities across Canada, full stop. Governments must also step in with the resources to ensure that these care homes are adequately staffed.
More promises aren’t good enough, nor apologies. We need action, fast.