Burnaby Fire Department. (Burnaby Family Life / Facebook)

7 Burnaby firefighters still unvaccinated, city says

Seven Burnaby firefighters are among 85 city employees who are getting rapid tests in lieu of vaccinations at the expense of the city.

By Dustin Godfrey | January 13, 2022 |5:00 am

Seven Burnaby firefighters are among 85 city employees who have declined to get vaccinated and instead are getting rapid tests at regular intervals.

City spokesperson Chris Bryan told Burnaby Beacon that about 900 rapid tests had been distributed by the city to staff since implementing the rules.

As of Nov 29, City of Burnaby staff members are required either to be vaccinated or to submit rapid tests every two days. For instance, if a person is working a regular Monday-Friday shift, they would have to get tested on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

While 900 rapid tests over six weeks would add up to 50 full-time employees, at three times a week, Bryan noted some of the staff in the program are likely part-timers.

The city has paid for the tests, with Bryan telling the Beacon last year that city hall was getting the tests at a bulk rate of about $10 per test. That would add up to about $9,000 spent on the tests so far.

The 85 employees and seven firefighters each represent only about 2% of their respective workforces—according to 2020 reports, there were 3,922 city employees and 312 fire department staff. (Similar reports for 2021 won’t be released until, at the latest, July 1.)

In November, Ambulance Paramedics of BC president Troy Clifford noted paramedics are required to be vaccinated and questioned the discrepancy between the two.

“Unfortunately, paramedics are losing their careers, and firefighters are exempt from that, going to the same calls,” Clifford said.

“From an evidence-based perspective, it doesn’t make sense. We believe that the best practice is that everybody responding to paramedic or emergency calls as first responders or paramedics need to be fully vaccinated.”

Healthcare workers, including paramedics, are mandated by a provincial health order to be fully vaccinated, with those who refuse losing their jobs.

As of November, the number of unvaccinated paramedics was believed to be around 85 out of a province-wide staff of 4,500.

In November, Mayor Mike Hurley told the Beacon he would have liked to have seen a full vaccine mandate for staff, but the city reportedly received legal advice against it.

“I have very little patience for people who refuse to get vaccinated, unless they have a bona fide reason, like health or others under the Human Rights Act,” Hurley said.

And he said it was “concerning” that unvaccinated firefighters could be responding to medical calls.

According to the 2020 annual fire department report, nearly 42% of all calls firefighters responded to were medical calls, far more than any other type of call.

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Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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