Union leader warns of staff shortages due to vaccine mandates in the healthcare sector

Deadline for Ontario long-term care staff to be immunized is Nov. 15.

A union representing workers in retirement homes, long-term care, and hospitals is warning of a “perfect storm” of staff shortages.

Hundreds of Ontario workers in long-term care and hospitals could soon be cut loose by their employers because they did not get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The deadline for Ontario long-term care staff to be immunized is Nov. 15, or they will be denied access to their workplace.

The policy does not apply to hospitals, but many, like Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie, have introduced their own.

In fact, several area hospitals have implemented a vaccination policy that could result in unpaid leave or termination for staff who are not double-dosed. Besides RVH, Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial, Stevenson Memorial in Alliston, The Waypoint Centre for Mental Health in Penetanguishene, Southlake in Newmarket and Georgian Bay General in Midland have imposed a vaccine policy, part of a group of 14 Central Ontario hospitals. Staff must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31, unless an individual has been granted a medical exemption or accommodation under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

One Windsor hospital fired 57 unvaccinated people last week and others in the Waterloo area are preparing to place people on leave.

The head of the SEIU healthcare union, Sharleen Stewart, says the vaccine mandate is likely to worsen staffing levels that are “already at a critical point” driven by low wages, lack of full-time jobs and poor working conditions that predate the pandemic.

A spokesperson for the long-term care minister says the ministry will work with homes to provide supports if necessary.