FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's health minister says she's concerned about the 7,000 government employees who aren't vaccinated as the province's deadline for full vaccination nears.
Dorothy Shephard told a briefing Friday that unvaccinated employees account for about 12 per cent of the nearly 60,000 people who work in public service.
Though the province has seen an additional six per cent of government employees get vaccinated since announcing the mandatory vaccination order earlier this month, Shephard said New Brunswick "cannot afford" to have unvaccinated people working in the public service.
"The potential risk to co-workers, patients, students and members of the public is too high," she told reporters. "After today, those who have not had at least one dose of the vaccine will not have enough time to get their second dose before the Nov. 19 deadline, as 28 days must pass between doses."
Some of the 7,000 unvaccinated employees work in the health-care system, which could pose a difficult situation for the province's already overburdened hospitals, said Dr. John Dornan, interim president and CEO of Horizon Health Network, one of the province's two health authorities.
Dornan said hospitals within the Horizon network have had to delay — and in some cases cancel — 113 "non-emergent" surgeries so far.
"Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions with respect to all aspects of our hospital care and this is a very sensitive process," he said. "The folks that work in our operating theatres are needed in other areas, simply put. We need them in in-patient units on ICUs and in the emergency departments."
Ahead of the deadline for mandatory vaccination, Dornan added Horizon is looking at about 1,200 employees who either aren't fully vaccinated or have yet to officially disclose their vaccination status.
When asked about contingency plans, Dornan said the health network was trying to mitigate the issue by reaching out to hesitant employees to assuage their concerns. In the event some employees decide to leave, he added the hope is that others will step up to fill their place.
"We think that, ultimately, people that work in our system, which are caring people, will recognize the value in being vaccinated," he said.
Officials also confirmed five more deaths as a result of COVID-19 on Friday, as well as 40 new infections in the province.
Four people have died in the Moncton region, including two in their 60s, one in their 70s and another person in their 80s, according to the government.
The remaining death involves a person in their 70s in the Campbellton area and brings the total number of virus-related deaths in the province to 106.
There are a total of 731 active cases and 50 people are hospitalized, with 15 listed in intensive care.
The province also says the circuit breaker that has been in effect in certain areas of the province since Oct. 8, has been extended for at least seven more days until the situation is more stable.
As well, the Campbellton region is to enter a 14-day circuit breaker as of Friday evening to address the high number of COVID-19 transmissions there.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
The Canadian Press