Unvaccinated care-home workers a bigger threat than family visits, Sask. health official says

Unvaccinated care home workers are a bigger threat to residents than their families or other visitors, says a senior Saskatchewan Health Authority official.

Province will allow more long-term care home visits starting next week

Saskatchewan long-term care homes will start allowing more visitors next week. Up to 25 per cent of eligible health workers in province remain unvaccinated. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Unvaccinated care-home workers are a bigger threat to residents than their families or other visitors, a senior Saskatchewan Health Authority official says.

The comments from Dr. Kevin Wasko, the SHA's physician executive for integrated rural health, come as restrictions on some long-term care-home visits are about to be lifted.

The changes also come as up to 25 per cent of all eligible health-care workers have yet to get their vaccination, according to SHA figures.

In a social media exchange Thursday, Wasko criticized Barbara Cape, president of Service Employees' International Union-West, who opposes increased care-home visitors.

Dr. Kevin Wasko, physician executive for integrated rural health for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, says unvaccinated long-term care workers pose a greater threat to residents than family or other visitors. (Saskatchewan Medical Association)

"Our seniors in LTC (long-term care) are needing their families … the biggest risk to ltc residents are your members who chose not to get vaccinated, not their own families," Wasko wrote.

"This decision was made out of humanity. When will you call for mandatory vaccination of your members for the sake of the vulnerable people they care for?"

Visits set to increase but conditions apply

Starting next Thursday, families will be allowed to visit long-term care homes where 90 per cent of residents have been fully vaccinated for at least three weeks. Other conditions apply.

Cape, who represents more than 10,000 licensed practical nurses, technologists and other health workers, says she opposes mandatory vaccinations. However, Cape says, she's is doing all she can to encourage everyone to get their shot.

"I have been a giant advocate recommending that every single member of SEIU-West gets vaccinated," she said.

Cape says she doubts the government figures.

An SHA official said Wasko would not be available for an interview Friday.

The SHA's official position is to encourage vaccination, but there are no plans to make it mandatory.