As Manitoba prepares to lift COVID-19 mandates for direct care employees, those who work with some of the most vulnerable say they’ll continue to do all they can to keep people safe.
On the eve of lifting the requirement such workers be fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing for COVID-19, CancerCare Manitoba issued a statement, saying more than 98 per cent of its staff are fully vaccinated and it remains committed to providing "high-quality care in an environment that is safe for patients and staff."
Staff are not to come to work if they are sick, said the Monday statement from CancerCare, which declined a request for an interview. Staff and patients will continue to be screened for symptoms and everyone — staff and patients — will continue to wear medical-grade personal protective equipment, it said.
At CancerCare sites, physical distancing measures are being maintained, as well as those that keep the volume of traffic inside them reduced.
"Cancer patients should be reassured by these measures which continue to be place," the statement said.
On Feb. 24, Health Minister Audrey Gordon announced the requirement for proof of vaccination or regular testing would lifted for all provincial direct-care workers, starting March 1.
The move would help to restore some "normalcy" and help in "bridging some divides that have been created throughout this pandemic," Gordon said.
Jan Legeros, executive director of the Long Term & Continuing Care Association of Manitoba, said members were advised and had an opportunity to comment on the requirement being lifted.
"The majority of staff are fully vaccinated," Legeros said in an email Monday. "I know that our members would still like to see mandatory vaccinations for all staff and many have implemented this policy."
Precautions, such as screening, will occur upon entry at facilities and masks will still be worn, Legeros said.
The majority of residents are fully vaccinated and have had a booster shot, she said. COVID-19 cases during the most recent wave of the pandemic caused fewer tragic results, she added.
"Of course, we know what to do now and what to look for," Legeros said. "There is also monoclonal antibody treatment and the oral Paxlovid, as well."
However, lifting the requirement for direct care workers to be vaxxed or get tested is "a huge mistake," said Eddie Calisto-Tavares, an advocate for families of care home residents. Her father died in November 2020, during an outbreak at Maples personal care home in Winnipeg before COVID-19 vaccines became available.
"Science has proven that vaccines work and allowing unvaccinated individuals to access long-term care and personal care homes and exposing our most vulnerable cohort" — seniors with multiple health issues — to the unvaccinated is "negligence" and "abuse," she said Monday.
Calisto-Tavares said it is "heartbreaking" politicians and public health officials have chosen not to continue with a requirement that protects those in long-term care.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.