The vast majority of AHS physicians and healthcare workers now double vaccinated against COVID-19. (Black Press Media files)

The vast majority of AHS physicians and healthcare workers now double vaccinated against COVID-19. (Black Press Media files)

Some Red Deer-area AHS workers will qualify for rapid COVID testing

AHS is not revealing zone numbers, due to privacy concerns

About 1,650 Alberta Health Services staff who are not fully vaccinated have been placed on unpaid leave — including some health care workers in Central zone.

According to AHS, these employees will only be able to return to work if they provide proof of full immunization.

However, the vast majority of AHS physicians and healthcare workers now double vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We are extremely grateful for the 97 per cent of full-time and part-time staff and 99.7 per cent of physicians who have become fully immunized to date” throughout the province, an AHS spokesperson said on Wednesday, after the final deadline passed for the mandatory vaccination policy for health care employees.

A rare COVID testing exception is being granted to very few unvaccinated Central zone health care workers in specialized areas, whose absence from the job would impact patient care.

Most of these staff members who are eligible to provide daily COVID rapid test results are in North, Central and South zones, the AHS spokesperson revealed.

Testing is being allowed, at the employees’ expense, at 19 work locations and nine EMS locations throughout Alberta, with 175 AHS staff eligible for the temporary testing option. No further zone-by-zone breakdown will be provided by Alberta Health Services.

“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,” stated the spokesperson.

“It’s important to note that an affected work location is only the area of a site where there was a risk of a service disruption — not the entire site.”

The spokesperson added that worker numbers will continue to fluctuate as additional mitigation strategies are put into place to ensure that patient care is not disrupted by the immunization policy.

This may include moving immunized staff to a different location to ensure healthcare services can continue without disruption or delay. “In such a situation, the temporary testing option may no longer be required.”

A handful of employees who were eligible for temporary testing have turned that option down, and will now be placed on unpaid leave, said the spokesperson.

“Contingency plans are in place, as needed, to ensure continuous service, including assigning additional staff.”

All unpaid leaves will be reviewed, along with the vaccination policy, at the end of March.

In the meantime, if an employee who’s on leave decides to become fully immunized, that worker can notify AHS and return to their role at any time.

The AHS spokesperson stated: There will be no reductions or delays in surgeries, or other procedures, at any site, no impact on access to emergency care, and no reductions in available acute care beds as a result of the immunization policy.

The mandatory vaccination policy was put in place to protect vulnerable people in care, as well as care providers.

“We strive for a fully immunized active workforce as it is crucial that our patients know they are coming into an environment where those who care for them are doing everything they can to protect them, including getting immunized.”

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Alberta Health Services Central Zone