'Many' suspended hospital workers getting COVID-19 vaccine, Windsor Regional Hospital says

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Windsor Regional Hospital says 21 suspended employees have taken the shot since the deadline passed and many more are in the process of getting one. (Sanjay Maru/CBC - image credit)
Windsor Regional Hospital says 21 suspended employees have taken the shot since the deadline passed and many more are in the process of getting one. (Sanjay Maru/CBC - image credit)

Some previously unvaccinated staff at Windsor hospitals have been choosing to get vaccinated since more than 170 were suspended without pay on Wednesday and given a deadline to get vaccinated or lose their jobs.

Windsor Regional Hospital said that as of Friday morning, 21 suspended workers have gotten the vaccine and returned to work. It says many others are in the process of getting vaccinated.

Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare said there are currently 30 workers suspended without pay at their facility, two fewer than the hospital reported on Wednesday.

"Delta is a brutal virus, it takes very little to contract that virus," said Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario.

"So to have any health-care professional, anywhere, in any health-care sector... unvaccinated, is a threat for patients."

Grinspun said that while she doesn't agree that unvaccinated workers should be fired, she said they should not be providing direct patient care, adding that it should not be falling on hospitals to mandate vaccines for workers, rather it should be on the provincial government.

"Any other country that has acted seriously on this, it's the government that has mandated this and not left it for health-care organizations to deal with this," she said.

I think we've got to show some understanding. I mean, there's going to be people who are now on the verge of losing their jobs. - Kerry Bowman

Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, said that while freedom of an informed choice is important, safety comes first when in a hospital setting.

"People within hospitals, with some exceptions but not many, are vulnerable people and health-care workers have a heightened ethical responsibility compared to, maybe not all, but many other jobs," he said. "So there is a different set of standards."

'Show some understanding'

But Bowman also said that the discussion around vaccinations has become too adversarial.

"I do not think our politicians made a good decision by making this an election wedge issue. I think it tended to polarize people further," Bowman said.

"I think we've got to show some understanding. I mean, there's going to be people who are now on the verge of losing their jobs and I think it's an awful situation."

The Ontario Nurses' Association, which represents some of the staff at Windsor Regional and Hôtel-Dieu hospitals, said it does encourage and recommend workers get a vaccine.

"ONA supports education and addressing vaccine hesitancy, not penalizing and terminating nurses when we need them the most," a statement from the organization reads, adding that it would deal with individual situations of declining the vaccine under provisions of their collective agreement, provincial laws on consent, and the Ontario Human Rights Code.

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