FORT ST. JOHN -- Peace River MLAs are renewing their call to bring back unvaccinated healthcare workers as the province grapples with staffing shortages.

Speaking in the legislature during a debate on the recruitment and training of healthcare professionals, Mike Bernier voiced his concern on hospital diversions in Chetwynd, emergency room wait times in Dawson Creek, and prescription renewals.

“How is this the healthcare system we should be proud of when it’s utterly failing people from corner to corner?” Asked Bernier.

He then renewed BC United calls to reinstate healthcare workers that were let go because of vaccine mandates.

"In places like Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, Tumbler Ridge, and everywhere else in rural B.C. that are struggling to find nurses, there's a quick way they can do it rather than the government being stubborn," said Bernier.

British Columbia is currently the only jurisdiction in Canada with a vaccine requirement for healthcare workers.

The MLA for Peace River South questioned why that was—asking if the NDP governments’ understanding of the science was different than everywhere else in North America.

The B.C. Nurses’ Union has filed grievances on behalf of its members, and have been demanding government action since 2022 for the reinstating of nurses that were impacted by the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.

They say the current policies are unreasonable and a breach of their collective agreement and the B.C. Human Rights Code.

Dan Davies said the system was in a state of undeniable crisis, with one in five British Columbians without a family doctor.

Davies doubled down on the need to lift the vaccine mandates, calling the requirement divisive.

"As our public health care system wavers on the utter brink of collapse, the exclusion of these professionals not only undermines our healthcare capacity but also erodes public trust in our healthcare," said Davies.

The MLA for Peace River North questioned whether ‘political games’ are taking priority from real world challenges, before finishing with calls to adapt the view of the BC United that it is time to move beyond the mandates.

“The health care and well-being of British Columbians depend on it,” said Davies.   

In March of 2022, Northern Health said that out of the close to 9000 healthcare workers, 291 staff members had been fired for refusing to get vaccinated, the figures including cleaning, clerical, and support staff.

As for nurses, Northern Health currently has 672 vacancies within the system.

90 of those are full and part-time positions in Fort St. John, 75 in Dawson Creek, and eight in Chetwynd.

“The question that looms large over this assembly and the province is whether the NDP will finally take the necessary steps to rehire workers that have been dismissed under this divisive policy,” said Davies.