Deadlines looming for hundreds of unvaccinated hospital workers if they want to keep their jobs

Hundreds of unvaccinated employees continue to work at GTA hospitals, even as other healthcare facilities in Ontario have already begun suspending employees who refuse their COVID vaccinations.

Several Toronto hospitals are giving firm deadlines that run from next week to the end of October, and will suspend or lay off employees who don’t get vaccinated by then, except those with medical exemptions. This comes despite the challenges of ongoing staff shortages and burnout.

But Sunnybrook and Sinai Health will allow people without the vaccine to continue working if they agree to undergo regular testing and complete a vaccine education course.

Ontario requires this of all hospitals, but has left stricter policies to individual institutions, something critics say leaves vulnerable patients at risk.

At the University Health Network, which includes Toronto General and Toronto Western Hospitals, everyone must be fully vaccinated by October 22. That includes everyone who works at the hospital, from nurses and doctors to researchers and nurses. If they do not have the vaccine by then, “they will have made the decision that they will no longer work at UHN because they do not comply with the UHN policy of mandatory vaccination for COVID-19,” spokeswoman Gillian Howard said in an emailed statement.

“This policy is in place to protect our patients and the people who work at UHN.”

About 96 percent of the staff and 99.9 percent of the doctors are vaccinated, he added. Of the 16,363 employees, that adds up to roughly 550 unvaccinated people and roughly 200 with unknown vaccination status.

“These numbers change daily as people get vaccinated or report their status,” added Howard. To date, “no one has been suspended or fired.”

Meanwhile, the hospitals of Kingston and Windsor Dozens of employees have already been suspended for failing to comply with vaccine mandates, spokesmen confirmed to the Star.

When asked if the Health Ministry was considering a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, spokesman David Jensen said in an emailed statement that the province has the “most far-reaching mandatory vaccination policies for health care settings. high risk in the country “.

Organizations have the ability to implement additional policies based on the local context, he added, and together with vaccination certificates in higher-risk settings, this “will help protect the progress of the province.”

At a press conference on Aug. 24, Ontario’s chief medical officer for health, Dr. Kieran Moore, said the province’s leadership “was always a reference.”

The deadline for all Unity Health staff to have received at least a first dose is October 4, spokeswoman Jennifer Stranges said in an email. Unity Health includes St. Michael’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Health Center.

“By November 4, all staff and physicians who have previously provided evidence of only a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine must present evidence of having received their second dose or they will be placed on temporary leave without pay or suspension of privileges, “he added.

Of about 8,550 full and part-time employees, about 95 percent have provided proof of at least one first dose, and there is “near complete compliance” for 850 active physicians.

No hospital network was able to provide a detailed breakdown of vaccination status by post.

Doris Grinspun, executive director of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO), said she still hears that nurses reject the vaccine. It is a small minority, but “one is too much.”

She advocates for mandatory vaccinations for all healthcare and education workers in the province, unless people have valid medical exemptions and then need to get tested 48 hours before a shift.

If they don’t comply, “they should be removed from direct patient care,” he said, especially now that Ontarians must have the opportunity to enter nonessential spaces like restaurants, gyms and theaters.

“Anyone who comes into contact with patients, we cannot afford that they are not vaccinated, period.”

This comes like hospitals in the The United States Faces a Possible Personnel Shortage with upcoming deadlines in that country for vaccination. Closer to home, administrators are trying to push people to get the photos through forums like city councils and the opportunity to ask one-on-one questions, before the deadlines hit.

At the Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto’s far east, 89 percent of full-time staff and physicians (1,534 out of 1,724) are fully vaccinated, leaving 190 unprotected.

There is no exact date for the hospital’s vaccination policy yet, but it is expected sometime in October or November. If staff have not shown proof of vaccination or have not obtained a legitimate medical exemption by then, “they will face disciplinary action, which could include leave without pay,” spokeswoman Katarina Brkic said in an email.

The same can be said for Trillium Health Partners in the Peel region, where all staff are expected to be fully vaccinated as of Oct. 20, according to spokesperson Amit Shilton, Mackenzie Health, with a Halloween deadline, the spokesperson said. Christina Cindric and North York General, where the deadline is October 29, except for those with an approved medical or human rights waiver, spokeswoman Anne-Marie Flanagan confirmed.

Meanwhile, at Sunnybrook Hospital, where 88 percent of staff are fully vaccinated, and at Sinai Health, where 95 percent of employees reported receiving at least one dose, those who refuse will not have to be vaccinated.

“Sunnybrook has taken the approach of providing education to those who initially refused to receive the vaccine due to concerns or issues of trust in the vaccine. We do not plan to make vaccination mandatory for staff, but we will continue to require frequent testing for those who remain unvaccinated, ”spokeswoman Sybil Millar said in an emailed statement.

Colin Furness, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said that while overall hospital vaccination rates are good, he feels they are “doing it the wrong way,” by planning to lay off or suspend people. that reject the shots.

Instead, they should reassign them so they don’t come into contact with patients, giving them a choice.

“So don’t create martyrs,” he said, predicting a new wave of protests around hospitals later this fall, when these deadlines passed.

But, he said, when it comes to unprotected staff around patients, “even one percent unvaccinated is too high.”

“Each patient should only be cared for by vaccinated people, period.”

By the numbers:

UHN: Approximately 96% of the staff and 99.9% of the doctors are vaccinated. Of the 16,363 employees, 550 are not vaccinated and approximately 200 have an unknown vaccination status.

Unit Health: There are around 8,550 full and part-time employees and more than 800 active physicians. About 95 percent of full and part-time staff comply with the policy, which requires them to submit proof of a first dose by October 4. For doctors, it is close to 100 percent.

Sunnybrook: Of 9,083 officials, 91% have received at least one dose and 88% both doses. Of about 1,000 doctors, 96 percent have received both doses of the vaccine.

Michael Garron: Full-time staff and doctors who have confirmed that they are fully vaccinated: 89% (1,534 / 1,724). Full-time staff: 88% fully vaccinated (1,288 / 1,463). Full-time physicians: 94.3 fully vaccinated (246/261).

North York General: Of the 4,345 employees and physicians (3,649 employees plus 696 physicians), 88% are fully vaccinated.

Of the physicians, 98% are fully vaccinated and 1.4% are partially vaccinated. In the case of staff, 85.7% are fully vaccinated and 5.7% partially.

Sinai Health: 95 percent of the 5,643 employees have reported receiving at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

Trillium Health Partners: He did not provide a breakdown.

Mackenzie Health: He did not provide a breakdown.

Scarborough Health Network: He did not respond before the deadline.

Humber River Hospital: He did not respond before the deadline.

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