B.C. Nurses’ Union president resigns abruptly amid mandatory vaccine debate

B.C. Nurses' Union president resigns abruptly amid mandatory vaccine debate
Christine Sorenson, former president of the BC Nurses' Union, is shown.

In a sudden move amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the president of the BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU) has resigned.

The update, buried on the union’s website late on election night, said president Christine Sorensen was stepping down “for personal reasons” and her desire “to pursue other opportunities.”

On Tuesday, the BCNU didn’t respond to CHEK’s multiple requests for further comment, but Sorenson’s resignation comes less than a week after the union said it didn’t support mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for health care workers.

“If they’re implementing this mandate and saying that if you’re unvaccinated that you will be placed on unpaid leave. How are you going to replace those nurses?” said BC Nurses Union Vice-President Aman Grewal to CHEK News on Thursday, Sept. 15.

The union was concerned the mandate would lead to staffing crunches in an already strained system.

But not all nurses in B.C. agreed with the position.

“Nurses are ideally suited to provide evidence-based informed decisions regarding vaccine confidence, and we base those decisions on facts and science. So our perspective on the vaccine mandate, which is based on facts and science, is that it’s a good mandate,” said Michael Sandler, executive director of Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of B.C.

Health officials say 80 per cent of nurses in B.C. are vaccinated, meaning of the current 48,000 nurses in the province, around 9,600 are unvaccinated.

And health officials say they too, are catching COVID-19.

“As of last week we had over 100 healthcare workers who were in isolation ill with COVID, or because they were exposed and not yet vaccinated,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in her Tuesday press conference.

“We talk about the strain on healthcare workers. Part of that strain is healthcare workers who are not yet vaccinated becoming ill themselves. Or having to be off because they’ve been exposed to somebody who is ill.”

The main goal for all healthcare providers is getting everyone vaccinated to ease the strain on our hospitals and health care workers.

The health care worker vaccine mandate will take effect Oct. 26 — a condition of employment for all workers, physicians, contractors, and volunteers in health facilities.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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