Good Doctor production halted following dispute over COVID-19 testing

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Production of the leading American television series The good doctor, shot in the Vancouver area, has been suspended due to a dispute over COVID-19 test teams.

The development follows the British Columbia government touting the resumption of work in the province’s production sector.

Serial work in Vancouver, the third largest production center in North America, is slowly resuming after a shutdown imposed this year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The fourth season of The good doctor, about a Californian surgeon with autism and scholar syndrome, played by Freddie Highmore, was scheduled to begin August 10. But it was suspended on July 31, affecting hundreds of workers.

A spokesperson for Sony Pictures Television linked the shutdown of the show to “an issue with COVID-19 testing” and said in a statement to The Globe and Mail that Sony is trying to resolve the issue with the British Columbia Council of Film Unions.

The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, representing approximately 160,000 workers, including American actors in the series, has allied with Sony on the issue.

“America’s unions have a well-designed, science-based system recommended by our consultant epidemiologists to keep our members safe on set when they are working and cannot wear PPE. [personal protective equipment]Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, chief operating officer and general counsel for the union, said in a statement to The Globe.

“The protocols proposed for this production in Vancouver currently deviate significantly from this safety protocol, including having a large number of crews on set without any testing. We work closely with Sony and other employers to ensure member safety on productions that start in Canada. “

Phil Klapwyk, a business representative for IATSE Local 891 of the BC Council of Film Unions, admitted in an interview that there had been a dispute over a testing policy developed by unions in the film production industry. British Columbia and producers of The good doctor, and said talks are underway to reach a deal that will satisfy all parties.

“We are looking for a resolution and are working to chart a way forward to ensure that BC film workers can get back to work on this show in the safest environment possible,” he said.

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He cited the policy of provincial health worker Bonnie Henry that only people with symptoms or in the healthcare professions should be tested for COVID-19, and routine screening of asymptomatic people no is not recommended in British Columbia.

Mr Klapwyk said he could not comment on the level of COVID-19 testing that each party deemed acceptable. The Deadline Hollywood website reported last week that the U.S. union wanted medical drama actors tested three times a week and the crew once a week.

At the onset of the pandemic, British Columbia Premier John Horgan said US film producers were paying close attention to the province’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and were looking “very favorably” on its approach.

Films and TV series contributed $ 3.2 billion in production spending to the British Columbia economy in 2018-19.

The good doctor debuted in 2017. It was based on a South Korean show, and adapted and developed by Daniel Dae Kim, a former star of Hawaii 5-0, and David Shore, the Canadian creator of the hit medical series House.

When asked about the situation, the British Columbia Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture cited “strong British Columbia public health measures” and the hope for a resolution “so that everyone can come back to the set ”.

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WorkSafeBC, the provincial workplace safety organization, said through a spokesperson that it was not familiar with the specific situation around the testing, but reviewed its proposed safety plan for the coronavirus in June.

In response to a question from the Globe, WorkSafeBC released a June 26 inspection report The good doctor workplace.

Among the measures in the employer’s COVID-19 safety plan is a reference to developing a “policy and procedure for daily worker health assessments.” These include a self-administered questionnaire and a temperature check. »No further details are provided.

On a larger scale, WorkSafeBC spokesperson Craig Fitzsimmons said that as of August 5, there had been no COVID-19 claims in the province’s film, commercial or television production sector. .

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