On October 14, 2021 by way of an Order of the Provincial Health Officer (the “Order”), vaccination is required for a broad range of workers and employees in healthcare facilities receiving government funding and providing various types of care. The Order takes effect on October 26, 2021.
The Order applies to various facilities and organizations that provide “health care or services”. “Health care or services” is defined broadly and includes personal care, dietary and maintenance services, as well as administrative or managerial services. “Care location” is also defined broadly and the Order will generally apply to places that provide health care or services and receive government funding. Examples include health authorities, facilities licensed under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act, an adult day care, and correctional facilities. “Operators” are those responsible for a care location other than a patient, resident, or client.
The Order defines a vaccinated person as someone who is at least seven days post receipt of the full series of a World Health Organization approved vaccine against infection by COVID-19 or a combination of approved vaccines. The Order places significant responsibility on employers and operators to ensure that those covered by the Order and entering their facility are in compliance with the Order’s terms. It is imperative that employers and operators request and obtain the appropriate documentation as outlined in the Order.
Individuals may apply for an exemption from vaccination. Pursuant to the Order, any exemption must be approved by the Provincial Health Officer (not by the facility or employer).
The Order includes several different categories of workers that are captured by the vaccination requirement, including “staff members”, “outside health or personal care providers”, “outside support or personal service providers”, and other outside providers.
The order defines “staff members” broadly. Generally, it includes those employed by or contracted by health authorities, those working in provincial mental health facilities, those working for an organization funded by a health authority, the Ministry of Health, or Ministry of Mental health and addictions to provide health care or services.
If the employer does not have access to the Workplace Health Indicator Tracking and Evaluation database (“WHITE”), employees must provide employers with proof of vaccination or an exemption. Employers who do have access to WHITE must confirm a staff member’s vaccination status from WHITE.
Staff members who submit valid proof of two COVID-19 vaccinations may continue to work. Staff members who are unvaccinated as of October 26, 2021, have not received the first dose of the vaccine, and do not have a valid exemption or valid proof of an exemption request may no longer work in the facility.
Staff members who have not received one dose of the vaccine prior to October 26, 2021, but receive it before November 15, 2021, may return to work seven days after their first dose and provided they wear a medical mask at all times except when eating or drinking (the “Staff Preventative Measures”). They may only continue to work if they receive a second dose of the vaccine between 28 to 35 days of their first dose and comply with the Staff Preventative Measures until seven days after their second dose.
Staff members who have only received one dose of the vaccine before October 26, 2021 may continue to work, provided they comply with the Preventative Measures. However, they must receive a second dose of the vaccine within 28 – 35 days of receiving the first dose and must comply with the Staff Preventative Measures until seven days after receiving the second dose.
Staff that are hired after October 25, 2021 must be vaccinated and provide proof of the vaccination to their employer or provide an exemption to their employer.
Outside Health or Personal Care Providers
The Order includes rules requiring vaccination for Outside Health or Personal Care providers (“PC Providers”). PC Providers are defined as “a health professional who is not a staff member, or any other person who is not a staff member, who provides health care, personal care or home support in a care location, but does not include a visitor”. PC Providers must submit proof of vaccination, exemption, or an exemption request to an operator to access a care location. PC Providers may be able to provide care in certain circumstances if they are partially vaccinated or have an exemption, if they meet certain specific requirements.
Outside Support or Personal Service Providers
The Order also includes rules relating to Outside Support or Personal Service Providers (“PS Providers”). PS Providers are defined as “a volunteer, hired companion, barber, hairdresser, nail esthetician, or any other person who is not a staff member who provides support or a personal service in a care location, but does not include a visitor”. If PS Providers do not have proof of vaccination, they must be able to demonstrate proof of an exemption and comply with the terms of the exemption.
Other Outside Providers
The Order also includes rules relating to “Other Outside Providers”, which includes a person other than a staff member, visitor, outside health or personal care provider, outside support or personal service provider who is in a care location. Examples include an entertainer, animal therapy provider, or maintenance person.
The Order puts significant responsibility on employers and those operating government-funded facilities to ensure compliance with the Order. Anyone who may be covered by the Order should make sure that they carefully review the Order to determine its scope, and ensure compliance.
A complete copy of the Order can be found at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/covid-19/covid-19-hospital-and-community-vaccination-status-information-preventive-measures.pdf.