Unvaccinated local hospital workers face prospect of losing their jobs

Unvaccinated hospital staff are at risk of more than COVID – they could lose their jobs, as St. Mary’s General Hospital and Grand River Hospital implement provincially mandated vaccine policies.

Under provincial Directive 6 that came into effect as of September 7, hospital employees are required to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19. Failing that, they must prove a medical reason for not being vaccinated or complete a COVID-19 vaccination educational session.

As of Tuesday, however, the hospitals’ joint policy calls for staff to have had at least one dose of vaccine or face unpaid leave. Grand River Hospital said in a statement that staff will have until November 9  to provide proof of full vaccination or risk losing their employment, while physicians will risk losing their hospital privileges.

“We have a heightened responsibility to protect the health and wellness of all and most especially, vulnerable patients,” said hospital CEO Ron Gagnon. “The COVID-19 vaccine is an important part of this.

“I understand that staff are still coming forward to be vaccinated, which is encouraging. We also recognize that there may be an impact on selected services and wait times and will do everything we can to ensure that we are mitigating that impact and providing our community with safe, quality care.”

Currently Grand River Hospital has 93 per cent of all staff fully vaccinated, while St. Mary’s is at 98 per cent. Both institutions have seen more staff get their first dose since implementing the policy.

“We are doing everything we can to protect the safety of the patients we care for and our staff with this policy. The mandatory vaccination policy has been approved by the board and medical advisory committee in response to Directive 6 issued by the province,” said Lee Fairclough, president of St. Mary’s General Hospital, in a statement. “We have taken a measured approach since the policy came into effect September 7, understanding that everyone must make their own decision, but that as healthcare providers, it is our duty and responsibility to take every step possible to protect those we care for and those we work with.

“Many more have stepped forward to get their first dose in the last few weeks.”

Directive 6 mandates that high-risk settings such as hospitals need to have COVID-19 vaccination policies in place. Hospitals have worked with staff to provide support, education and resources to address their concerns about getting the jab.

“The joint medical advisory committee supports and endorses mandatory vaccinations across our hospitals,” said Dr. Peter Potts, joint chief of staff for GRH and St. Mary’s, in a statement. “As physicians who have seen the devastating health consequences and risk to human life that COVID-19 has presented, we must utilize the science that we rely on every day and mandatory vaccinations across our hospitals ensure that we are doing everything we can as doctors and healthcare professionals to protect our patients and each other.”

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