Visitors will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter Island Health hospitals as of Tuesday.
Proof of vaccination will have to be shown and unvaccinated visitors will not be able to enter hospitals, even just to pass through to an outdoor space.
Exceptions include children under 12 and individuals with approved medical-exemption documentation.
Visitors will continue to be required to wear a mask and respond to health screening questions, including whether they have been in the company of someone being tested for COVID, the health authority said.
It said care teams will consider requests for a visit from an unvaccinated individual based on certain exception guidelines, including visits as a support person to the emergency department, Intensive Care Unit and for critical illness and end-of-life care, as well as visits for pediatric care, and labour and delivery.
Island Health said additional exceptions will be considered for spiritual, cultural or clinical reasons by the patient’s care team. Anyone with the approved medical exemptions must show accompanying documentation.
Staff at long-term care and assisted-living homes were required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 12, and visitors have been required since then to show proof of full vaccination.
All workers in health care — including students, doctors, contractors, nurses and volunteers — had to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 26 or be placed on unpaid leave.
Last week, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said 98 per cent of health-care workers in the province are vaccinated. Just over 3,000 B.C. health-care workers — two per cent — remain unvaccinated.
By last week in Island Health, about 443 health-care workers had not been vaccinated, about 343 had had one shot and 21,286 were fully vaccinated. Dix said the province has no plans to reverse course on its vaccine mandate, as Ontario and Quebec have done, fearing a further labour shortage.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last week that if health-care workers don’t want to be vaccinated against COVID-19, they should think about whether they are “in the wrong profession.”
Proof of vaccination includes a B.C. Vaccine Card, or paper equivalent, and for those age 18 years and older, photo identification, which can include a B.C. Services Card or driver’s license.