Eighty-nine hospital workers in Windsor are officially out of work or have had their hospital privileges suspended for refusing to get their COVID-19 vaccines.
Two weeks ago, 140 employees and seven professional staff at Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH), plus 32 employees at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) were suspended without pay for not getting vaccinated.
They had until Thursday to change their minds or face termination — unless an approved exemption was provided.
"We have to individually and collectively done everything in our power to minimize the risk of the spread of COVID-19. Becoming vaccinated and following public health measures are two main key factors that reduce risk especially in an environment [where] we care for many immune compromised patients," said Dr. Wassim Saad, the chief of staff for the hospital in a news release.
CEO David Musyj said that while this policy doesn't completely eliminate the chances of outbreaks or spread occurring, it reduces the risk significantly.
"Our goal is to protect people, not have people come to the hospital and get harmed. It's come to the hospital and be helped," he said during a news conference Thursday morning.
As of Thursday 57 employees and 6 professional staff at WRH have still not complied with the vaccination policy. Of the employees, 32 of them are considered clinical staff.
All non-complying employees are being terminated, while the professional staff (physicians, midwives and dentists who provide services at the hospital) are having their privileges suspended.
As of Thursday, 98.5 per cent of WRH employees and professional staff are fully vaccinated.
"Although clearly there are some in the community, the province, who object to these types of policies, the thanks, the compliments from our community, from across the province, actually from across Canada, including our own staff, the numbers greatly outweigh those who have objected to any of this," Musyj said.
Meanwhile at HDGH, 24 staff (19 of them clinical employees) plus two professional staff have not complied with its vaccine policy. Just like at WRH, the employees who have not complied are facing termination, while professional staff not in compliance lose their privileges.
At both hospitals, the professional staff are technically not employed by the hospital, so the board of directors at each location will oversee the ultimate outcome for those employees.
Overall, 98 per cent of HDGH workers and 98 per cent of professional staff have adhered to the policy.
The hospital says five staff members have been exempt by providing medical or human rights requirements. The hospital says those staff members will face regular testing.
At WRH, Saad assures the public there will be no shortage of clinical services as a result of this policy and no reductions in services.
"Not one of these individuals who are leaving this facility is going to impact how care is delivered at this facility," Musyj added.
Five area hospitals in southwestern Ontario have similar policies in place.
As of Monday, 14 staff at Erie Shores Health Care have been impacted by the employer's mandatory vaccine policy. Two were terminated and a dozen were placed on a two-week unpaid leave of absence.
Meanwhile, staff at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance and Bluewater Health in Sarnia have until Oct. 31 to get vaccinated.