Castlegar’s mayor says statements she made about COVID-19 vaccine requirements for health-care workers are being taken out of context, but she has apologized to city council for any misconceptions the comments may have caused.
BC Nurses Fight Mandates (BCNFM) is a group of nurses who describe themselves as believing in “patient autonomy, freedom of choice, informed consent without coercion and privacy in all medical decisions.” They want the province to drop vaccine mandates that prevent them from returning to their jobs.
Dating back to Oct. 2021, those mandates require workers in hospitals, long-term care homes and community health centres to get vaccinated for COVID-19. The provincial mandate applies to 190,000 individuals. The province fired 2,496 health-care workers who refused vaccinations.
In an Instagram post, the group attributed a statement to Maria McFaddin that reads, “I agree with all that you have said. I personally believe that the mandates are harming our health care system and need to be changed.”
McFaddin acknowledged writing the note, but said she believed she was responding to an individual email from a nurse who had expressed concerns, not the BCNFM.
She says she had no idea that the statement would be used by the group.
“I thought I had made it clear that this was my personal thoughts on this topic,” McFaddin told Castlegar Council on Feb. 21.
“I don’t want it to come across that this is my stance on vaccines, this is not what it was about. It was about a health care crisis in our province, and it maybe not being as black and white … It is talking about … where we are at today and looking at two crises and what is the solution to both those crises when we have nursing staff leaving the province to work.
“We have a crisis in our communities, in our cities and we are trying to get nurses in and there are two provinces that haven’t changed this.”
The BCNFM post also quoted McFaddin as stating, “We discussed this at our regional meeting with Interior Health.”
The mayor said by “we” she was referring to the fact that various government representatives at the regional level had brought up concerns about vaccine mandates remaining in place, not that Castlegar City Council had done so.
“I recognize that I misspoke in the wording,” said McFaddin. “I apologize for any misconception that was out there … that made it sound like any of you had a stance that you do not take.”
Several councillors expressed disappointment in McFaddin’s opinion and that she made a statement that appeared to have come from the Office of the Mayor.
“I think you overstepped your position as mayor in this situation,” said councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstibitoff.
During the council meeting, Heaton-Sherstibitoff also claimed that BCNFM would be including McFaddin’s statements as part of a package they are presenting to the provincial government.
That was the first time McFaddin had heard of BCNFM’s intentions and she was not pleased.
“If someone chooses to use my personal opinion, and states to the government that it is a corporate decision — that is a problem because it is taking everything out of context,” responded McFaddin.
“I did not say that and I did not give that as resolution to them. I will rectify that piece with them and make sure it is taken out.”
However, Corrine Mori, a representative of BCNFM, sent an email to Castelgar News stating, “We have no presentation pending with the provincial government, and our complaints to the BC Labor Board were submitted last September. Ms. McFaddin’s statements will not be used, in any capacity, in any statements to any provincial department.”
McFaddin pledged that going forward she will be more careful to make sure it is clearer when she is stating a personal opinion, rather than speaking for council.
Staffing shortages abound across the province in almost all areas of health care. Interior Health currently has 1868 job postings on its webpage covering everything from housekeeping to physician specialists. Emergency departments in smaller communities have been forced to close periodically due to staffing shortages.
As a means to relieve staffing shortages, some politicians are beginning to call on the provincial government to lift the mandates. In January, Mike Goetz, the mayor of Merritt and chair of the B.C. Rural Health Care Alliance brought the matter up in a conference call with Interior Health, asking for an immediate end to the policy.
Castlegar News has asked Mayor McFaddin to further clarify her position, but she has not responded as of press time.
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