Over two-thirds of unvaccinated Manitoba health-care workers on unpaid leave are from Southern Health

The region with a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases that are helping to drive up Manitoba’s overall test positivity rates and hospitalizations also has the lowest vaccination rates and the highest number of unvaccinated health-care workers placed on unpaid leave.

As of Wednesday, 108 of 161 such workers — or 67 per cent of those who refused vaccination and testing accommodations — work in the Southern Health region, according to data provided by Shared Health.

Another 23 staff remain on unpaid leave in Prairie Mountain Health, 13 in the Winnipeg Health region, eight in Interlake-Eastern and three in Northern Health. There are six staff at Shared Health, which co-ordinates health-care delivery in the province, who are in the same position, and zero from CancerCare.

Southern Health is home to 15 per cent of Manitoba’s population, yet also accounts for 33 per cent of active cases provincewide, 41 per cent of COVID-19 patients in hospital and 58 per cent of patients in intensive care units. Of the deaths reported this week, 67 per cent were from the region.

At about 68 per cent, Southern Health is also the region with the lowest vaccination rates; the next closest region, Prairie Mountain, has uptake of nearly 82 per cent.

A mandate that came in effect Oct. 18 meant about 42,000 health-care workers had to be doubly vaccinated by then or submit to testing three times a week. Those who refused that accommodation were put on unpaid leave.

Overall, 33,612 health-care workers have been verified as doubly vaccinated, and roughly another 2,500 have indicated they are but are awaiting verification, Shared Health said.

There are 1,822 workers who have opted against vaccination and but have agreed to regular testing.