About 170 staff members at Windsor, Ont., hospitals have been placed on unpaid leave for not receiving their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by the deadlines set out by their employers.
Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) and Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH) had given staff and physicians until Sept. 22 to get their first COVID-19 shot or risk being suspended without pay, unless they could provide a valid medical exemption.
Employees have until Oct. 6 and Oct. 7 respectively to get vaccinated before they have their jobs terminated or privileges suspended, according to the hospitals.
A senior official at HDGH confirmed that 30 of their employees have now been suspended without pay for failing to meet the vaccine deadline.
“If these employees do not have the first vaccination on or before October 6th, they will face termination with cause,” wrote Biagio Marra, vice president of communications and corporate affairs at HDGH, in an email statement to The Epoch Times.
HDGH has reached a 97 percent vaccination rate amongst staff and physicians, as of Sept. 23.
WRH said in a news release on Sept. 22, that 96 percent of its employees are fully vaccinated. However, 140 individuals, who represent approximately 4 percent of the workforce, have not complied with the policy, including 84 clinical staff, 56 non-clinical staff, and seven professional staff members. They are now placed on a two-week unpaid leave.
The workplace policies follow a directive from Ontario’s top public health official requiring all hospitals to develop COVID-19 vaccination policies. The directive requires hospitals to, at a minimum, require regular virus testing for unvaccinated workers.
David Musyj, CEO of WRH, who took a similar approach as HDGH in implementing stricter vaccine mandates, said his hospital made the decision in order to “put the safety and well-being of patients, our community, and team members first.”
Mandatory vaccination policies have triggered a series of protests by public employees recently, including health workers demonstrating outside hospitals across Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned such protests as “intimidation,” while vowing to criminalize protests that block access to hospitals, vaccine clinics, testing centres, or other health services.
Canadian Frontline Nurses, a medical freedom advocacy group, who organized the protests outside hospitals on Sept. 1 and Sept. 13, responded to Trudeau in an open letter on Sept. 17, saying this type of rhetoric creates a divisive environment that “pits family and friends against one another based on medical choices that individuals have made with careful consideration.”
“As healthcare providers we believe that a one size fits all healthcare policy is not wise. There are many factors which need to be considered and Canadians have expressed their desire to contemplate and discuss their decisions with their doctors without any government interference,” the letter read.
“We believe that doctors should be providing guidance with education and informed consent based on individual needs and that coercion and intimidation has no place in creating a fair, just, healthcare outcome.”
Rights group Stand Up Canada, which has been vocal on the issue of vaccine choice, said Canada is at the “end of medical freedom.”
“No matter if you are pro-vaccination, against these measures or somewhere in between, to have a vaccination forced on you is not only illegal, it is unconstitutional, discriminatory and unenforceable,” says a posting on the group’s website.
“Can anyone, including your employer force you to put anything into your body that you do not want?”