After originally saying it would be providing a full list of health facilities where non-vaccinated staff members are being permitted to remain on the job under its Immunization of Workers for COVID-19 policy, Alberta Health Services (AHS) now says it will not be identifying any of the locations.
Whether hospitals in Olds, Sundre, Didsbury and Innisfail are allowing staff members unimmunized against COVID-19 to interact with patients is therefore not known.
On Nov. 19, the UCP government announced that it was modifying the original plan that would have required all health-care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 13 or face being placed on unpaid leave.
Instead, the government directed AHS to introduce temporary, targeted COVID-19 testing for workers at sites considered at “significant risk of service disruptions resulting from staff shortages due to unimmunized employees.”
On Nov. 19 Health Minister Jason Copping said, “This directive is about protecting patient care, primarily in rural areas. I’ve heard from many Albertans, especially in smaller communities, who are worried this policy (requiring vaccination of all staff) will impact patient care.”
The same day, AHS issued a statement saying it would be providing a “full list of sites where testing is taking place by the Dec. 13 deadline.”
That deadline passed without the sites being identified. On Dec. 14, AHS spokesperson Kristi Bland said 19 work locations and nine Emergency Medical Services locations allowing the targeted testing would be not named.
A total of 175 AHS staff are eligible for the testing option, she said.
“Due to the small number of eligible staff, AHS cannot disclose those work locations publicly due to the risk of disclosing individual immunization information, which we cannot do due to privacy rules,” Bland told the Albertan.
“It is important to note that an affected work location is only the area of a site where there was a risk of service disruption, not the entire site.”
Bland did not immediately reply to a query on whether AHS received legal advice that disclosing the site locations would violate individual immunization information privacy rules.
Under the Immunization of Workers for COVID-19 policy, approximately 1,650 full and part-time AHS staff who are not fully immunized have been placed on unpaid leave, she said.
“A handful of employees who are eligible for temporary testing have turned that option down and will now be placed on unpaid leave,” she said.