About 172 staff members at Windsor, Ont., hospitals have been suspended without pay for not getting their COVID-19 shots by the deadlines set out by their employers.
Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH) and Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) both have policies mandating that as of Wednesday, Sept. 22, all staff and physicians must have had at least one dose of the vaccine to continue working unless an approved exemption is provided.
WRH confirmed in a news release that 96 per cent of its employees are fully vaccinated, but as of Wednesday, 140 employees plus seven professional staff members had not complied, with 84 of them considered clinical staff. The staff who have not complied are now also placed on a two-week unpaid leave.
An official at HDGH confirmed the hospital has a 96 per cent vaccination rate. However, as of Wednesday morning, 32 employees have been suspended without pay.
The CEO of WRH said the decision was made to put the safety and well-being of patients, the community and team members first.
“We’re very pleased that 3,398 of our employees or 96 per cent of our employees are doubled vaccinated or are following the policy,” David Musyj said during a media briefing Wednesday.
WATCH | WRH’s chief of staff says he’s available to speak with vaccine-hesitant staff:
Despite the shortage on staff, Musyj said the hospital is prepared.
“We’ll be able to cope without them, I hope,” he said.
“As it stands now, having them continue with us, the risk is too high given the statistics and given the type of population Windsor Regional Hospital cares for.”
WATCH | Hospital’s chief nursing executive says staffing levels are constantly monitored:
Karen Riddell, chief nursing executive at WRH, said her team has been working for months on staffing contingency plans and have been able to up levels.
“During the first wave of the pandemic, with us not having access to the vaccine, we saw a significant impact to our staffing and to our bed capacity because of outbreaks,” said Riddell.
“Those outbreaks really occurred because we don’t have the tools we do now, including the vaccine to help prevent transmission.”
Riddell said she hopes more employees will choose to get vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the suspended employees at HDGH have until Oct. 6 to get their first vaccinations, or face “termination with cause,” according to a representative.
Staff at WRH have until Oct. 7 to do the same, or face termination or having their privileges suspended.
Erie St. Clair hospitals agree to same policy
All five Erie St Clair hospital organizations in southwestern Ontario — including Bluewater Heath in Sarnia, the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance and Erie Shores Healthcare in Leamington — agreed to the same policy.
However, each hospital set its own deadline on the vaccination policy.
As of Wednesday, Chatham-Kent Health Alliance is reporting 88 per cent of staff are fully vaccinated, while another five per cent are partially vaccinated. A spokesperson for the hospital explained that 95 per cent of all physicians there are fully vaccinated.
The Chatham-Kent hospital said they have given staff members until Oct. 31 to be fully vaccinated.
At Erie Shores Healthcare, staff and physicians who have not been fully vaccinated are getting COVID-19 tests twice weekly. The hospital has given its staff until Oct. 4 to provide proof of having received at least one vaccine dose.
The hospital said as of Wednesday, 95 per cent of staff have at least one dose.
No details were available Wednesday about how many staff at Bluewater Health have complied with the policy. The hospital’s deadline is Oct. 31.
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