A number of hospitals in Ottawa moved to tighten their COVID-19 vaccine policies this week, removing workarounds allowing regular testing and putting a hard deadline of Oct. 15 for staff to be fully vaccinated.
The Ottawa Hospital (TOH), Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH), l’Hôpital Montfort and Bruyère all said Monday evening that they will make vaccines mandatory among physicians, nurses and staff in the fall.
The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) made the same move last week, alongside other children’s hospitals in the province.
Guidelines released last week from the Ontario government for health-care settings make vaccinations mandatory for staff, but included regular testing as an alternative to getting the shots. The latest policies drop that option.
“Patients and caregivers shouldn’t have to worry about the vaccination status of the people around them when they come to QCH for care,” Queensway Carleton president and CEO Dr. Andrew Falconer said in a statement.
“There are individuals within our community who are unable to get vaccinated due to their age or because of medical conditions. We provide care to some of the most vulnerable people in the region – this is the right thing to do.”
Most of the hospitals in the Ottawa area report staff vaccination rates of around 90 per cent so far.
Unvaccinated individuals working at each of the hospitals will have until Sept. 7 to get their first dose and until mid-October to get their second dose.
What comes next isn’t strictly defined in the policies.
Most hospitals said in their statements that they will provide educational resources to the vaccine-hesitant.
“For those who do not comply with the requirements after completing the vaccination training, all options will be considered to effectively enforce our policy,” the statement from Montfort said.
“After Oct. 15, TOH will examine the vaccination rate of our staff and determine whether further measures are required to ensure the safety of our health-care environment,” read The Ottawa Hospital’s statement.
CHEO boss Alex Munter told Global News last week that if staff refuse vaccinations after the hospital’s Oct. 15 deadline, those employees could be put on an unpaid leave of absence.
Medical and human rights-based exemptions will still be permitted under each of the hospital’s tightened policies.