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Ford won’t impose COVID-19 vaccine mandate for Ontario health-care workers

Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday Ontario won’t make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for those working in health care, suggesting doing so could jeopardize patient care in the province. 

“The impact of the potential departure of tens of thousands of health care workers is weighed against the small number of outbreaks that are currently active in Ontario’s hospitals,” Ford said in a news release.

“Having looked at the evidence, our government has decided to maintain its flexible approach by leaving human resourcing decisions up to individual hospitals.”

Ford said hospitals have strong enough outbreak controls at place that even when COVID-19 spreads at their facilities there is “little if any impact on patient care.” 

Currently, hospital workers in Ontario must get vaccinated or regularly get tested for the virus, though many hospitals have gone ahead with stricter policies. Hospitals that have placed unvaccinated employees on leave or terminated them have reported staff losses of between one and three per cent.

Several hospitals, including those with Toronto’s University Health Network, have already put mandatory vaccination policies in place.

Ford pointed to already high vaccination rates in hospitals as another factor behind his decision. He said vaccines and strong infection-control protocols have kept hospitals safe and they are able to manage outbreaks.

His statement also pointed to news of surgery cancellations in British Columbia due to staff shortages after its vaccine mandate took effect.

Ford said the government will keep monitoring the situation and might revisit the policy “if warranted.”

‘Thousands of surgeries’ waiting, Elliott says

Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters later on Tuesday that the province decided not to impose a vaccine mandate on health-care workers because hospitals would experience “significant” job losses, but the province supports the right of hospitals to make individual decisions.

“The concern that we had was that we would lose some of our precious health human resources, compared to a relatively small number of outbreaks,” Elliott told reporters.

“As government, we have a responsibility to protect the health and well-being of all Ontarians and so that’s why this decision is the right decision for Ontario right now.”

WATCH | Health Minister Christine Elliott speaks to reporters about province’s decision:

Ontario won’t impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health-care workers

2 hours ago

Ontario officials say they won’t make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for those working in health care, suggesting doing so could jeopardize patient care in the province. “This is the right decision for right now,” Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters Wednesday. 1:11

If the mandatory vaccine policy was imposed and unvaccinated health care workers lost their jobs, the province would have to cancel surgeries and it doesn’t want to do that, she said.

“We’ve got thousands of surgeries that are waiting, not to mention diagnostic procedures and we know that we’re seeing patients that are more acutely ill,” she said.

“We want to be able to keep those going so that we’ll be able to treat people in an earlier stage of illness so that they can become well.”

In a pinned tweet, Dr. Michael Warner, an ICU doctor at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, said it doesn’t make sense to allow unvaccinated workers to interact with patients.

“We need a universal, mandatory vaccination policy for all hospitals and long-term care homes in Ontario,” he said.

“That’s the safest thing for patients.”

Ford’s announcement came hours after the province’s top doctor unveiled a plan to provide vaccine booster shots to all Ontarians over the age of 12 by early next year. Reporters asked Dr. Kieran Moore about a vaccine mandate for health- care workers but he did not provide an answer. 

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