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COVID-19: LHSC to fire 84 employees after vaccine policy hits deadline

London Health Sciences Centre says the upcoming departures make up less than one per cent of their overall staff and physician workforce and will have a minimal impact. Matthew Trevithick / Global News

London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) says it will be firing 84 employees after they failed to meet the deadline for the hospital network’s COVID-19 vaccination policy.

The policy had given workers until Oct. 22 to become fully vaccinated or risk losing their job, unless they could provide proof of an accommodated exemption.

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Chief clinical officer Carol Young-Ritchie says the firings make up less than one per cent of the 9,148 people they employ.

“The majority of our staff have had the vaccine,” Young-Ritchie said.

“I want to assure all the public that the losses that we have are spattered across our organization and various programs, and we don’t anticipate any impacts to clinical care.”

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Of the employees being fired, 47 are full-time, 32 are part-time, two are casual and three are in job share roles.

Young-Ritchie added that of those losses, 33 are nurses, less than half of which are full-time. The total number of nurses at LHSC is around 4,000, she added.

The hospital network says recruitment to fill the vacancies is “already well underway.”

Those who do become fully vaccinated after being terminated are encouraged to re-apply to LHSC once they get both their shots.

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The hospital network adds that “fewer than five” physicians have had their privileges suspended for failing to meet the policy’s deadline. The specific number is being withheld due to privacy concerns.

Another 81 employees who committed to becoming fully vaccinated have been placed on unpaid leave and will resume duties once they receive their second dose.

As for the rest of LHSC’s employees, 98.2 per cent of staff and 99.8 per cent of physicians and residents are fully vaccinated, leading to an overall total of 99.2 per cent.

In a statement to Global News, the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), one of several unions representing workers at LHSC, says it “encourages and recommends that health-care workers receive the vaccine if they can.”

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The union added that it has the “legal duty to represent its members when requested.”

“ONA supports education and addressing vaccine hesitancy, not penalizing and terminating nurses when we need them most. ONA also supports regular testing of employees as a measure that ensures safety of everyone, reassignment or other measures,” the union said.

“ONA will deal with individual situations of declining the vaccine under the provisions of the Collective Agreement, provincial laws on consent, and the Human Rights Code.”

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LHSC is also continuing to craft a separate COVID-19 vaccine policy for visitors.

Chief medical officer Dr. Adam Dukelow says the hospital network “should have some news sometime next week.”

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