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Bethany Care Centre health worker upset with vaccine policy

As a condition of employment, any new employee hired by Bethany is required to provide proof of having received minimally a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination
MVT stock Bethany Didsbury
Bethany Didsbury Dan Singleton/MVP Staff

DIDSBURY - A health-care aide at Bethany Care Centre seniors facility in Didsbury says she is upset and concerned with a new company policy requiring anyone applying to work there to either be vaccinated for COVID-19 or commit to having the vaccine.

As well, the policy states current employees who do not receive the vaccine will have to go on unpaid leave in the event of an outbreak at the facility.

Karen Welsh calls the new policy unacceptable and something she does not support.

“I will quit before I’ll have to do it (get vaccinated),” said Welsh, who has worked at Bethany Didsbury for six years. “I’m concerned about people being coerced into doing this. It’s coercion if you ask me. It’s pure tyranny, that’s my opinion, and I believe it is a violation of human rights and something has got to be done."

She said she does not agree with getting the COVID-19 shot.

“It’s not a vaccination for one thing. It’s an experimental drug,” she said.

Bethany Care Society owns and operates the Didsbury facility, as well as other across the province.

The new policy distributed to employees last month applies to all staff, others acting on behalf of Bethany, including contracted service providers, and students and volunteers.

The new policy reads, in part: “Starting in May 2021 as a condition of employment, any new employee hired by Bethany are required to provide proof of having received minimally their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination.”

Any current Bethany “employee, volunteer, student or contracted agency personnel who has not at a minimum received their first does of a COVID-19 vaccine will not be permitted to access a COVID-19 outbreak unit in a Bethany care centre.”

Unvaccinated staff working on an outbreak unit will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence until the COVID-19 outbreak has been declared over by Alberta Health Services and Canadian Disease Control.

For new or existing employees, volunteers or practicum students, or contracted agency personnel unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, their individual situations will be “reviewed on a case-by-case basis and accommodated to the extent possible where appropriate documentation is provided.”

Michelle Dulmadge, human resources executive director with the Bethany Care Society provided The Albertan with the following statement:

“Along with other continuing care organizations, Bethany has adopted a policy requiring vaccination protection across our sites and workplaces in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and availability of vaccines to all Albertans. 

“In recent months, there has been a significant decline in outbreaks in long-term care and supportive living settings across Alberta due to the vaccination rollout. Vaccines are saving lives. 

It is our legal and ethical duty to ensure a safe environment for residents and employees. Family members trust us to take every precaution to keep their loved ones living in a Bethany care centre safe.”

Welsh has sent letters of concern to several politicians, including Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills UCP MLA Nathan Cooper.

The letter to Cooper reads: “This (new policy) is a direct violation of basic human rights and must be stopped. It is against the law to coerce anyone into taking an experimental drug or another other drug for that matter. What do you and your conservative government plan to do about this?”

MLA Cooper provided the following statement to The Albertan: “The government has repeatedly stated that vaccines will not be mandatory and have taken steps in legislation to ensure this is the case. I fully support this position.”