The Quebec order of nurses (OIIQ) announced Monday that members who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 will have their permits to practice suspended as of Friday.
The decision comes only a few days ahead of the Oct. 15 province’s deadline, after which unvaccinated employees in the health sector face suspension without pay.
Luc Mathieu, president of the order, told Global News the suspension of members will remain in effect until they can provide proof they have been adequately vaccinated.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé welcomed the news.
“The signal is clear: it will not be possible to bypass compulsory vaccination in the health-care system on Oct. 15.” he wrote in French on Twitter. “I encourage all nurses who have not yet been vaccinated to go and do it now. It’s never too late.”
On Friday, Dubé said it was up to professional orders to make it clear to its members that if they wanted to practice in the health sector they needed to be vaccinated.
There was concern that some front-line health-care workers would try to take jobs in the private sector where they wouldn’t have direct interaction with patients, rather than get vaccinated.
The OIIQ now joins the Collège des médecins, Quebec’s doctors’ order, which had already announced it would suspend the right to practise medicine of any member who refuses to be vaccinated.
Mathieu, however, said the order didn’t have much choice in the matter.
“The choices we had were to suspend or limit the right of practice of the nurses,” he said, adding the order has to abide by the government decree.
Many worry how Quebec’s health network will be able to cope with the loss of any more nurses, when many hospitals are already facing acute staff shortages.
The government recently announced $1 billion to seduce nurses to stay in a network that is missing more than 4,000 of them.
Mathieu said while the order is preoccupied by the situation, he believes being vaccinated is the right thing to do.
“As a president of an order, the order of nurses, the mandate is to protect the public,” he said. “I do not understand that nurses are not vaccinated, except for those that have a medical condition that makes it not possible for them.”
Mathieu went on to repeat what many have said before.
“The science is clear about it, (being) vaccinated is a good way to stop the propagation of the virus with the other measures in place,” he said.
While 93 per cent of the province’s roughly 80,000 nurses are adequately protected against COVID-19, Mathieu said that still leaves more than 4,000 members who are not properly vaccinated and another 5,716 whose status needs to be verified.
Meanwhile, the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) — a labour organization representing close to 76,000 nurses, respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists province wide — spoke out against the OIIQ’s decision.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the union called the decision “excessive” in the context whereby health professionals who work directly with patients and aren’t adequately vaccinated will already be suspended without pay.
The union vowed to take legal action if necessary.
“The FIQ is committed to contesting in court any legal decision of professional orders that could cause disproportionate harm to our members,” the statement reads in French.
The government is expected to unveil mitigation measures later this week, detailing how it plans to make up for any staff shortages resulting from suspended workers.
— With files from The Canadian PressView link »