Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) says its outbreak at Kingston General Hospital is now officially over. With both staff and patients affected by the outbreak, the hospital organization says it’s working to ensure its staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The outbreak began July 5 and affected 16 people — nine patients and seven staff members — linked to the Davies 5 unit.
Most of those involved were not fully vaccinated, KHSC said.
“At the point in time at which we had an outbreak, we did have some people, both patients and staff, who were not fully vaccinated. So we had some who were unvaccinated. We did actually have some, including staff, who were partially vaccinated,” said Elizabeth Bardon with KHSC.
Bardon said seven of the 16 people who contracted COVID-19 were partially or fully vaccinated, but she did not have the breakdown of the number of staff or patients. She said the rest were completely unvaccinated.
When the news first hit that a number of KGH staff had contracted COVID-19 so late into the pandemic, and that some of them may have been unvaccinated, concerns arose about hospital staff refusing to get their shots.
“I think a big question in the public mind is, ‘Why do we not force health care workers to get vaccinated?’ And it’s a good question. It is not something that has been done within hospitals at this point because there actually isn’t a legal structure for that,” Bardon said.
She added that if there was a public health or government directive to mandate vaccines among health-care workers, KHSC would comply.
Still, this doesn’t mean the hospital organization is not pushing vaccines with its staff, she said.
“What we need to be able to do is provide every opportunity for people to be vaccinated, be 100 per cent clear that we want people to be vaccinated. We strongly encourage it. There is almost no one who cannot get the vaccine,” she said.
Bardon says she’s confident that vaccine uptake among staff has been high, since many demanded vaccination early on in the pandemic, and 80 per cent of staff actually received their first doses through KHSC.
Right now, there simply isn’t any legal framework to allow KHSC to mandate the vaccine for its employees, she said.
Despite that hurdle, Bardon says KHSC has asked every staff member to provide proof of their vaccination status by the end of the month — whether that be partially or fully vaccinated — or a medical exemption from the vaccine.
If they choose to go unvaccinated, they must complete a course on the risks of being unvaccinated and the benefits of getting the shot.
As for the Davies 5 unit, it is open to new admissions and visitors as of Wednesday morning.