A union representing thousands of health-care workers in Manitoba is calling on the province to rescind an order allowing officials to investigate health workers for vaccine queue-jumping.
The order under the Emergency Measures Act took effect last week, and allows Shared Health to investigate and confirm the eligibility of health-care workers who received COVID-19 vaccinations.
That prompted the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals to issue a statement saying the move was “disrespectful” to the union’s 6,500 members.
“I think they should rescind that order immediately. There’s no question about it. It makes no sense. It’s punitive. It’s unnecessary,” MAHCP president Bob Moroz told CBC News.
“This is a really, really big slap in the face for our members, because it paints us all with a very wide brush, that people are trying to get access to this vaccine when they weren’t eligible for it,” he said.
Moroz says he’ll seek an urgent meeting with Ron Schuler, Manitoba’s minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act, and health minister Heather Stefanson, to talk about rescinding the order.
The province outlined last Friday that if a health care professional is investigated under the order and found to have provided false information to get early access to a vaccination, that can be disclosed to the person’s employer, professional regulatory body or to law enforcement.
Order meant to address complaints: Roussin
When asked about the order on Monday, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said it was meant to address an unspecified number of complaints that individuals had jumped the queue.
He said that due to privacy legislation, health officials couldn’t investigate the complaints of queue-jumping.
“So we don’t know whether anyone has done it, and where. But this actually enables us to investigate when we get those complaints,” he said.
Along with the MAHCP, the Manitoba Nurses Union also criticized the move.
“Doctor Roussin himself admitted his uncertainty as to whether or not this queue-jumping has actually occurred,” said MNU president Darlene Jackson.
“The use of the exceptional and extraordinary powers in emergency order legislation is certainly questionable, particularly since government was responsible for the screening process and protocols,” Jackson said.
“It’s a very broad brush that we fear is more an exercise in deflection, rather than a proper and constructive use of limited health-care resources,” she said.
The order applies to health care workers vaccinated any time since Dec. 12 — the first day of vaccinations in the province — and is in effect until April 15, unless it’s revoked sooner than that.
“They should rescind that order based on the effect that it’s had on their employees in health care right now who’ve been lauded as heroes — but now they’re being treated as anything but,” said Moroz.
“I think our members deserve an apology for being painted with that brush,” he said.
He pointed out that health-care workers would have been screened for their eligibility when they called to make a vaccine appointment.
Moroz said that MAHCP has heard from its members that they feel the order is a violation of privacy.
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