LHSC, St. Joseph’s Health Care London vaccination policies to continue past March 1

FILE - London Health Sciences Centre's Victoria campus. Matthew Trevithick / Global News

The London Health Sciences Centre will continue to enforce its vaccination policies beyond the end of the month, even as the province moves to loosen COVID-19-related measures, including dropping its vaccine passport system.

Last October, the hospital network implemented a mandate requiring all staff to get two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and for all non-essential care partners to show proof of vaccination.

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Dr. Adam Dukelow, chief medical officer at LHSC, confirmed Tuesday that those policies will remain in effect.

“Given the populations that frequent our hospital, we are a more high-risk setting than other places, such as a shopping mall or restaurant. And therefore, I believe this extra layer of protection is necessary within our facilities,” he said during a scheduled COVID-19 briefing.

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“We currently have four units which are on outbreak, one of which was just declared (Monday). But we do everything we can to control, mitigate and prevent outbreaks from happening. This is an important reminder that while we may be seeing restrictions loosening in our community, COVID-19 is certainly not over in the hospitals.”

As of Feb. 16, the most recent update to its policy, social visitors are still not permitted, but LHSC is now allowing more non-essential care partners in its hospitals. The number of essential caregivers allowed depends on the patient population and details can be found on LHSC’s website.

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In a statement, St. Joseph’s Health Care London said at this time, there has been no consideration given to lifting the vaccination requirement for its staff and physicians.

“The pandemic is ongoing and continues to be a significant risk to the vulnerable people in our care and to health system resources. As such, St. Joseph’s Health Care London remains committed to doing everything possible to protect our care and work environment to keep patients, residents, staff and physicians safe,” the statement read.

St. Joseph’s added that it continually reviews its essential caregiver and visitor policy and has loosened some of those restrictions as recently as of Feb. 21. The latest essential caregiver and visitor policy information can be found on its website.

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Fanshawe College, meanwhile, said it has no intention to remove its vaccination policy any time soon.

“To provide certainty to students, faculty and staff, Ontario’s 24 colleges will maintain their COVID-19 vaccination policies until at least the end of the semester.”

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Premier Doug Ford announced last Monday that the province is ending its COVID-19 vaccine passport system starting on March 1, however, businesses can choose to continue requiring proof of vaccination.

During Tuesday’s briefing, the Middlesex-London Health Unit‘s acting medical officer of health, Dr. Alex Summers, encouraged businesses to consider continuing to require proof of vaccination beyond March 1.

“For this week, proof of vaccination is still required at a majority of settings. Make sure that you continue to abide by those rules as they are important for protecting you and those around you,” Summers said.

“Next week, March 1, when that becomes optional, I still strongly encourage proof of vaccination to be considered by businesses and for individuals who’ve not yet to get vaccinated, to still go and get vaccinated.”

Summers said he expects vaccination might still be required for travel and added that a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is “amazing when it comes to protecting you from hospitalization and death, even against Omicron.”

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with files from Global News’ Scott Monich

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