Repeating headlines out of Windsor, and other communities across the Province, it has become known that Sault Area Hospital has terminated 13 staff members as a result of their refusal to comply with the hospital’s vaccination policy.
The hospital reports that, as a result of its vaccination policy, four registered nurses, four registered practical nurses and five support staff, are no longer employed at the hospital.
This action now means that as of Tuesday, Nov. 23, all active SAH employees, active professional staff and on-site volunteers are fully vaccinated or in the process of becoming fully vaccinated. The only exceptions to this statement are with respect to those who have an approved medical exemption.
With 1,766 employees making up their staff cohort, it is reported that the hospital had been working with about 70 individuals in recent months who may have been hesitant to get the COVID-19 shot.
Further, SAH had announced that those employees who had not received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine prior to this week would be terminated with cause, and it would continue to allow for Human Rights Code exceptions, such as for medically contraindicated individuals.
The announcement came as an extension to its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination guidelines and applies to all active staff at the hospital. As the community weathers the 4th wave of the ongoing global pandemic, concerns regarding how this action could impact operations were heavily considered. In response, SAH president and CEO Ila Watson has indicated that senior staff had studied the possibility of any terminations leaving the facility short-staffed “very carefully” and have put contingency plans in place.
A press release issued from SAH stated, in part, that;
“…all of our actions – including mandatory COVID-19 vaccination – are guided by our mission to provide quality patient care through our values of integrity, compassion, collaboration and partnership, accountability, respect and excellence. It is what our community expects and what we strive for every day. We also took this step with careful and thoughtful consideration of the potential impacts. Given our efforts to mitigate the impact of mandatory vaccination from the potential of 70 employees to 13, we are in a position to manage this impact through our contingency plans and recruitment efforts.”
Vaccination rates within the hospital – for both staff and medical professionals – have risen steadily since the policies were introduced several months ago.
“This action helps reduce transmission of COVID-19 and decreases the risk of disruption to hospital operations and other unexpected staff absences due to illness,” the hospital reports.
For those staff members who do have an existing medical exemptions from the vaccine – and it is reported that there are very few – these individuals must complete rapid antigen point-of-care testing twice a week and attend an education session approved by SAH.
At the provincial level, the Ontario government has refused to implement a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement for hospitals, despite lobby efforts from the Ontario Hospital Association, which said a mandate has been endorsed by 120 of its 141 member hospitals.
SAH said the commitment to its vaccination policy has not changed.
“We believe it is the right decision for SAH to protect the safety of our patients, their loved ones, our teams and our community.”
Responding to comments on the lack of provincial mandate, Premier Doug Ford cited a mandatory policy by the government to the B.C. health-care system which resulted in the termination of 3,000 employees, leaving the system strained, forcing cancellations of surgeries and diagnostic testing.
Other hospitals have also taken steps to ensure their staff are vaccinated. Earlier this month, Timmins and District Hospital had also reported that some of its employees were on unpaid leave due to their vaccination status relating to hospital policy.
SAH’s policy applies to everyone who works at the hospital and its offsite locations.
It has been said that employees who have only received one dose of the vaccine will be fully vaccinated by Dec. 20.
–with files from saultstar.com