Staff at 14 hospitals in Ontario’s central region, including Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) will be required to be fully vaccinated under a joint policy that takes effect on Sept. 7.
The leaders of the hospitals say the policy will ultimately lead to unpaid leave or termination of unvaccinated staff.
The CEOS and chiefs of staff have sent a letter to staff outlining their hospitals’ shared policy, which includes mandatory vaccination for new employees.
Beginning next Tuesday, all employees, contractors, students, credentialed staff and volunteers will have to provide proof of full vaccination or undergo regular testing and an education session.
The hospitals also include Georgian Bay General Hospital in Midland, Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, Stevenson Memorial Hospital in Alliston and Waypoint Health Care in Penetanguishene.
The other hospitals are in the Greater Toronto Area and Orangeville.
As of Wednesday (today), RVH President and CEO Janice Skot says they are asking people to declare their immunization status.
“So, either you’re fully vaccinated and you can submit proof of that, or you’ve received dose one and you are intending to receive dose two, or you are declining,” explains Skot.
“I am so delighted to say that well over 80 per cent of Team RVH have declared that they have received at least one vaccination, and the majority have received two. We are well on our way to achieving our goal of 100 per cent.”
The policy mirrors a directive from the province in early August that requires employers in health and education to have staff disclose vaccination status by Sept. 7 or face the education session and testing requirements.
“Between Sept. 7 and Oct. 8, just to give a bit more breathing room, we are asking anyone who is going to be working at RVH to do two negative weekly COVID tests,” says Skot.
“Also during that time, our emphasis is on education and further understanding of any barriers that anyone is presented with. That could be anything from fear of needles, or it could be someone who does not believe in vaccinations.”
If between Oct. 8 and Oct 31 and final doses have not been received, Skot says there are more severe implications such as unpaid leave or “a cooling-off period.” Staff who have privileges at the hospital could have those restricted after Oct. 8.
According to Skot, anyone who is not vaccinated by the end of October and who does not have a medical exemption or accommodation from the Ontario Human Rights Code could be terminated. Conversely, it could lead to the restriction, suspension, or termination of privileges.
“That’s the endpoint,” says Skot. “But that’s not really what we’re emphasizing either in our discussions with our employees, our credential staff, or eventually our volunteers.”
The letter from the hospitals reads, “COVID-19 cases are starting to increase again in our communities and across the province with the most severe impacts affecting those who are unvaccinated.”
“As a health system, we need to do everything possible to safeguard our patients, families, communities and those who provide their care.”
Meanwhile, a large gathering of people stood on either side of Georgian Drive outside RVH on Wednesday afternoon to protest against mandatory vaccines and other directives from various levels of government regarding the pandemic.
One person said he saw his own doctor protesting.
Skot says the community depends on RVH, and therefore, patients assume that when they’re coming in, it’s a safe place to receive care.
The other hospitals involved are Humber River Hospital, MacKenzie Health, Trillium Health Partners, Oak Valley Health, North York General Hospital, Halton Health Care, Southlake Regional Health Centre, William Osler Health System, Headwaters Health Care Centre