Ontario health sector braces for worse staff shortages as vaccine mandates come due

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TORONTO — Hundreds of Ontario workers in hospitals and long-term care could be off the job in the coming weeks because they did not get vaccinated against COVID-19, further complicating what advocates call a “perfect storm” of staff shortages.

The president of a union representing workers in long-term care, hospitals and retirement homes said the staffing problem, driven by low wages, lack of full-time jobs and poor work conditions, predates the pandemic, and vaccine mandates will likely add to it.

“It’ll have an impact on staffing levels that are already at a critical point,” Sharleen Stewart of SEIU Healthcare said in an interview. “It’s kind of stirred up the perfect storm now.”

A deadline of Nov. 15 has been set for Ontario long-term care staff to get immunized or lose access to their workplaces. It’s up to the homes what happens after that, but many operators had already set dates to place unvaccinated people on leave, citing the devastating impact of COVID-19 and the risk of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s top doctor, said Ontario is watching closely for the “unintended consequence” of staff shortages related to vaccine mandates but maintained that they are necessary in some jobs to protect the vulnerable.

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

SEIU Healthcare is among those calling for the policy to apply across the health system over concerns that unvaccinated long-term care workers may jump to related fields.

Stewart also argued that without improving conditions in long-term care, unvaccinated workers — who are contending with heavy workloads, low staffing levels, low wages and precarious work arrangements — have no incentive to overcome their hesitancy in order to keep their jobs.

“They’re thinking, is it worth staying here,” she said.

Ontario has not followed Quebec’s lead in mandating immunization for all health-care workers. But many hospitals have implemented their own hardline policies. Deadlines for workers to show proof of their shots or face unpaid leave — or termination — are now looming.

A hospital in Windsor, Ont., announced last week that it had fired 57 people who didn’t get vaccinated by a set deadline. A group of hospitals in the Waterloo, Ont., area has given staff until next Tuesday to get vaccinated or be placed on leave. Grand River Hospital in Kitchener said Friday that 93 per cent of staff were vaccinated ahead of the deadline, and acknowledged the possible disruptions to come.

“We also recognize that there may be an impact on selected services and wait times and will do everything we can to ensure that we are mitigating that impact,” CEO Ron Gagnon said in a statement.

University Health Network, which is reporting a 97 per cent vaccination rate, has given employees at the Toronto hospital network until Oct. 22 to get vaccinated or lose their jobs.

The head of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario said the health staff shortage is “a crisis of mega proportions” that’s largely unrelated to vaccine resistance. But Doris Grinspun argued that the impact of vaccine mandates could be mitigated if the province applied the policy across the entire health system.

“People need to work,” Grinspun said in an interview. “How many will leave if it’s across the the whole system? Where are they going to go?”

Unions and workplaces are still working with unvaccinated staff to overcome their hesitancy.

One Toronto long-term care home recently lost 36 per cent of its staff to unpaid leave because they didn’t get vaccinated.

Twenty-two Copernicus Lodge residents died from COVID-19 in earlier outbreaks. A spokeswoman for the Toronto home that serves Polish immigrants said avoiding more deaths was a motivating factor to get the mandatory vaccination policy out early in September

Marla Antia said the home was also concerned about losing a significant number of staff to illness if vaccination rates remained low when the fourth wave hit.

Since going on leave, Antia said 32 of the 111 affected workers have since reported getting at least one vaccine dose.

The home is planning to continue running vaccination clinics to accommodate people changing their minds, and has not yet decided what will happen with those who remain non-compliant after the final deadline.

“We’ve seen the needle move a little bit, so that gives us hope,” Marla Antia said in an interview.  “We’d love to have everyone back.”

Carla Sleep said the vaccine mandate has offered peace of mind as a worker and with her mother living in a long-term care home.

“It does make me feel more comfortable that it is going to be a standard,” she said.

Sleep’s workplace hasn’t had a major issue with vaccine hesitancy, but she noted that understaffing has worsened since she started as a personal support worker nearly two decades ago. She said it’s an issue that must be dealt with.

Turnover is on the rise among even the vaccinated new hires Sleep works with and chronic understaffing has left her and other colleagues discouraged.

“This is going to be the hard part,” she said. “Unless you have good wages and people are trained properly and we get the right workforce in there, it’s not going to change.”

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

 

19 COMMENTS

  1. Once again.. come near me or my family with a loaded syringe or attempt to shove a six inch piece of plastic tubing up my nose & I will land you firmly on your proverbial asses..

    phuck-around & find out.

  2. Interesting that no one has brought up the fact that even with the Federal government’s mandate for vaccinations approximately 70% of their (our) employees will be exempt from being forced to take the jab. Federal judges, certain Canada Revenue and Canada Post workers among others are exempt. There is more to this list and the hypocrisy is galling. As previous posters have said, this has nothing to do with “public safety or public welfare”. But, bully away. Some of you seem to really get off on it.

  3. If you want to be stubborn-stupid-irresponsible you deserve to get canned. There are many other vaccinated people out there that would love to have your jobs.

  4. You’re showing your maturity Bruce…..dissenting opinions are not allowed these days I guess. Just silence the critics with common sense who wrote about this 19 months ago regarding the Wuhan lab and non bat soup wet market, and that vax passports and mandates would be coming. I was a full 19 months ahead of you guess…just ask Craig….maybe you’re too embarrassed to publish my comments….This will be the last you hear from me; you have proven to be a censor of critical thinking and information like other sites ………………………..

  5. Matt the morons will never comprehend this is not about a virus. You don’t FIRE HEALTHCARE WORKERS IF THERE WAS A PANDEMIC !!!!!! They worked for one and a half years successfully and all of a sudden they are a threat? The reason morons that they do not want to take the experimental MNRA is because they know of the consequences via VAERS. Matt, they will not know what VAERS is and they would have to google the acronym SARS. Period. I don’t expect the moderator to post this because this is not a free forum…..

    • Those antivax simpletons will never know the pleasure of boosting multiple Pfizerna cocktails before hitting the gym (with at least 2 masks on of course, wouldn’t want to endanger any grandmas)

  6. Health care workers who are incompetent enough to recognize the criticality of vaccination requirements to protect themselves and the patients they take care of should not be employed, plain and simple. EVERYONE knew mandates were coming, health care workers were able to start getting vaccinated back in March, so there is not a single excuse other than incompetence or stupidity that has led to this, good on them for being terminated. Its about time the government puts their foot down with this ridiculous anti-vaxx movement. If you are an anti-vaxxer you have absolutely no place in health care, the first thing they teach you in health related programs is you check your own opinions at the door, its about the greater good for the patient.

      • Please explain how the vaccination is not for the greater good… We were at 4000 a day a few months ago before the vaccine rates were so high, now we are hovering between 500-700 a day, which is glorified flu #s. If you believe that the vaccine doesn’t help I have a small island to give you, free of charge. (in the middle of the Bermuda triangle).. one thing I have learned through this pandemic, you can’t fix stupid.

        • Cases, ie. ‘positive test result’ in an utterly meaningless statistic. It is a direct reflection of the number and type of tests taken and nothing more. Daily tests today are less than half what they were at when we had 4000/day and the cycle thresholds have come way down on the PCRs.

          As a reminder, each PCR cycle doubly amplifies the quantity of material measured. So something cycled at 25 (where we are now) versus 45 (where we were) is a difference of 2 to the power of 20, so more than a MILLION TIMES difference in quantitative outcome for the ‘same’ (meaningless) test.

          The only things that matter are hospitalizations and deaths, and those are not significantly down across the board since vax. In many jurisdictions with very high rates of vaccination, hospitalizations and deaths have steadily been trending higher. This should not be possible is vaxs are working as claimed.

          As you continue to give more and more jim jones jabs you will have more and more hospitalizations and deaths.

          As I’ve mentioned before, once third shots are mandated (and 4th, 5th, 6th, etc), anyone with two that is hospitalized or killed by the third counts as an ‘unvaxxed’ hospitalization or death, adding to the obfuscation.

          And I would greatly appreciate that free island! You can have all my shots, current and future for free in exchange.

          • You are very correct, on all points! If its works why isnt it working, cases hospitalization deaths have all risen from last year at this time when there was no jab! Pcr test are like election polls, pending on how high they are being cycled at!!! Someone with jab isnt considered vaxxed until two weeks after so they are still statistically unvaxxed if they have an adverse effect in those first two weeks!!!Nurses take an oath “To do no Harm”, it would be wise to listen to those with bravery!!! I give it about two weeks and they’ll say it’s the unvaxxed creating cases after Thanksgiving get togethers, either it works or it don’t!!! You shouldn’t drown with your life jacket on if I’m not wearing mine!!!!

      • Lol, greater good. Dose 5 so I can be “fully vaccinated” in 2022 and swipe my vaccine pass to go to the restaurant. It is about control over a virus less deadly than the flu.

  7. Ontario public braces for more lies from incompetent leadership

    Let’s break this down: they’re going to fire a bunch of staff and then cry about a crisis they created, then at Thanksgiving use this as an excuse to lock us back down because of exhausted hospital capacities (if you trust the data in the first place) they deliberately lowered by … firing a bunch of staff

    • “Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s top doctor, said Ontario is watching closely for the “unintended consequence” of staff shortages related to vaccine mandates but maintained that they are necessary in some jobs to protect the vulnerable.”

      It’s entirely intended! You know exactly what the outcome will be of laying of tens of thousands of healthcare workers across Canada – a lot of them nurses and doctors – at the same time! Especially when you were already short employees!

      It’s so obvious Peter Chow could see this coming (in theory)!

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