Ontario government won’t order mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for hospital workers

Premier says he is not prepared to jeopardize the delivery of care to millions of Ontarians

The Ontario government will not make vaccination mandatory for hospital workers.

Premier Doug Ford confirmed the news in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

“This is a complex issue. But when 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, I am not prepared to jeopardize the delivery of care to millions of Ontarians,” Ford said in the statement. “Having looked at the evidence, our government has decided to maintain its flexible approach by leaving human resourcing decisions up to individual hospitals.”

This decision goes against the advice of the province’s own science table.

Since early summer, the opposition parties at Queen’s Park and the Ontario Hospital Association have been calling on the premier to implement a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for hospital workers.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath lashed out at the government’s refusal to mandate vaccines for health workers.

“Unvaccinated staff should not be allowed in the ICU, in pediatric wards with sick babies, in the homes of vulnerable home care patients, or anywhere at all in health care, or in our children’s schools. Doug Ford is catering to anti-vaxxers at the risk of our vulnerable loved ones,” Horwath said.

She said the provincial science table was clear.

The risk of COVID-19 outbreaks causing staff shortages is far worse than the planned shortages caused by removing the few remaining unvaccinated workers,” Horwath said in a statement. “There is also a threat of health care workers leaving their jobs if they feel like their workplace is unsafe, because they’re working, eating and spending the day side-by-side with unvaccinated workers.”

Horwath said she was grateful to the vast majority of health workers who have already rolled up their sleeves.

In a statement, Liberal leader Steven Del Duca said that Doug Ford had chosen anti-vaxxers over cancer patients.

“He’s putting our most vulnerable patients in harm’s way because he’s scared that the Conservative anti-vax community won’t support his re-election otherwise. He should be ashamed.

Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie said on Tuesday that 39 employees and one credentialed staff member were no longer working at the hospital because they were not vaccinated.

“RVH is proud to have one of the highest hospital vaccination rates in the province,” said RVH President and CEO Janice Skot in an email to Barrie 360 on Tuesday. “In total, 39 employees, most of them working on a casual, temporary or part-time basis, as well as one credentialed staff member, chose not to become vaccinated, and they are no longer working at RVH.”

A group of 14 Central Ontario hospitals announced in September that they had come up with a joint COVID-19 policy that would lead to unpaid leave or termination for unvaccinated staff.

Besides RVH, Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial, Stevenson Memorial in Alliston, The Waypoint Centre for Mental Health in Penetanguishene, Georgian Bay General in Midland and several GTA hospitals signed on to the plan.

Last month, RVH cut loose 14 unvaccinated staff members after they refused to undergo regular COVID-19 testing.