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Niagara Health pauses mandatory COVID-19 vaccination program due to ‘intensity’ of Omicron

Click to play video: 'Registered Nurses’ Association warns of difficult times ahead as COVID spreads widely across Ontario' Registered Nurses’ Association warns of difficult times ahead as COVID spreads widely across Ontario
WATCH: Registered Nurses' Association warns of difficult times ahead as COVID spreads widely across the province – Jan 6, 2022

Niagara Health says it’s put a hold on its mandatory vaccination program for staff amid a fifth COVID-19 wave that was “not anticipated” and is overwhelming the network.

In a release on Thursday, president and CEO Lynn Guerriero said the executive team made the decision in light of a recent surge in community care and an “urgent need to focus” on a response.

“We remain committed to a fully vaccinated workforce at our hospital, and we will proceed with the implementation at a later time to be determined,” said Guerriero.

Read more: Fort Erie, Ont. hospital closing in Niagara Region due to staffing shortage, surge in patients

To date, the agency has not terminated any employees in its hospitals amid the ongoing rollout of the policy.

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It did say it let go of four workers at the long-term care home it runs in Welland in keeping with a mandatory vaccination directive from the Ministry of Long-Term Care.

“Those who are unvaccinated will continue to be required to participate in regular antigen testing, and our occupational health and safety team is working with them directly,” according to Guerriero.

Screenings will also be required before every shift in keeping with infection prevention and control guidelines.

 

Niagara Health will be shutting down its urgent health centre in Fort Erie, Ont., effective Thursday amid staff shortages and a surge in patients brought on by COVID-19.

The hospital’s chair says the facility’s nurses and doctors are being redeployed to other emergency departments in the region.

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The network is suggesting residents needing care reach out to family doctors or access the urgent care centre in Port Colborne, Ont., or the nearest emergency.

Read more: Ontario long-term care sees staff absences of 20% to 30% amid COVID outbreaks

On Tuesday, Niagara Health reported that it’s caring for 104 patients who are positive with COVID-19 and managing five outbreaks at its Niagara Falls and St. Catharines sites.

The extended care unit at the Welland Site is also in outbreak and following long-term care guidelines.

There are currently 354 staff members in self-isolation.

Since Dec. 21, 2021, 146 Niagara Health workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

Global News reached out to a number of hospital networks in the GTA to confirm whether mandatory staff vaccinations policies would remain in place.

Spokespersons from Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), St. Joe’s, Joseph Brant in Burlington and the University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto say the organizations remain committed to their initiatives.

 

 

 

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