PERTH COUNTY – During a discussion of vaccine policy for Perth County paramedics on Sept. 2, concerns were raised over other county vaccine policies that might arise when vaccine passports are introduced on Sept. 22.
Under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, if the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) believes that there may exist an immediate risk to the health of persons anywhere in Ontario, they may issue a directive to any health care provider or health care entity to be followed to protect the public’s health.
Accordingly, CMOH has issued a directive that effective Sept. 7, organizations are required to have a policy and associated procedures to provide for mandatory vaccinations or proof of exemption or testing for the workforce as required.
Perth County, through its Paramedic Services, falls under the CMOH’s directive, concerning paramedics.
The requirement of staff covered by the directive to declare their vaccination status or provide appropriate medical documentation as to why they cannot receive the vaccination, including the period for which they cannot receive the vaccination. Staff without medical documentation to excuse not receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or staff who do not declare their vaccination status shall be required to undergo regular testing and shall be required to attend an approved educational session about the vaccine.
“As far as the county is concerned we are following the directive and we will be in compliance by Sept. 7,” said Marion McKeen, manager of human resources. “One additional item that was requested was overall statistics that were anonymized about our workforce and again, this only applies to the frontline paramedics at this time. In the policy, our scope reflects that.”
Coun. Todd Kasenberg raised a broader question about county vaccination policy.
“Is there a plan concerning corporate intentions for the County of Perth with regard to vaccination and staff?” he asked.
“At this point, we are planning to maintain course with whatever is dictated by the province,” said McKeen. “Obviously with the mandating of the vaccine passports there will be a lot of burdens alleviated for most employers in terms of decisions to be made within the workplace so at this point, if council wishes we could come back with a legal report in (closed session) at the next council meeting if that is something that is requested.”
Kasenberg mentioned that although it is recent that the vaccine certificate system was announced by the province, he did take note of what he thought was a vague reference to meetings and meeting spaces.
“So I think there may be some implications for councils that I don’t know if we’ve fully considered yet, but certainly it’s something that I think deserves a report from staff,” he said. “If at a later moment we want to look at that, giving direction, I’d be happy to sponsor a motion to that effect for staff to report on this matter for the broader corporate policies with regards to this and the implications of the vaccination certificate for things like council and committee meetings.”
Coun. Robert Wilhelm agreed with Kasenberg.
“I would just perhaps like to expand that to include council members too, not just all county staff but members of council as well,” he said.
Coun. Walter McKenzie said he would support both comments and would welcome a report. “I’ve got to admit I’m a little nervous coming to a facility like this that we’re going to be making all the employees get vaccinations, yet we can come into this building and I’m not sure whether the vaccine passport applies to us to come in here,” he said. “Just a report to clarify everything would certainly be welcome by me.”
“So right now we allow for tests, well as of Sept. 7, there is the option for testing so it is not a mandatory vaccine but there is testing at the workplace,” said McKeen.
“Again you read these policies and I’m going to come back to biblical scripture – unequal weights and unequal measures,” said Coun. Daryl Herlick. “I mean, it’s insane what’s going on and I don’t take that lightly when I say that. We’re in interesting times, folks. You read this here corporate policy… The administration doesn’t have to do it. They just do endless swabs. I grew up in the independent meat business so none of this surprises me. I can smell government overreach like nobody else. It’s not going to end. I just don’t know where this is going to go. It’s going to get so complex but we’ll see where it goes. Anyways we go forward.”
Warden Jim Aitcheson said he has had discussions with Chief of Paramedic Services Mike Adair and McKeen about a vaccination policy.
“If we get a report back then I guess we’ll be on better footing to make a decision moving forward,” he said.
A motion to bring back a report on vaccination policy was brought forward by Kasenberg and seconded by Wilhelm.
Herlick jumped in, calling the Ontario vaccine passport “a double standard.”
“You know we’re going back in times to the Romans if you would,” he said. “It’s so unpredictable. I don’t know who is lobbying who or what… It’s just it’s all over the map and it’s confusing and yeah, the social media world is in overload at this point. I just don’t know how we’re going to be doing something when the province doesn’t even have it solid yet and then we’re sitting here asking for reports… This is sinful what I see. I’m going to be blunt. It’s unfair and uneven and that is a huge sin and it’s gross and I don’t like this… I stay steadfast… and I don’t see a purpose of a report. I’m sorry because we don’t know.”
Coun. Doug Eidt made a point of order.
“We started out talking about one thing and then all at once we’re way over the map on something different,” he said. “Can we please finish Marion’s?”
Aitcheson said there are two resolutions and one is on the floor.
Eidt kept speaking through the Warden.
“If we want to do something after this, we can finish the report that’s in front of us then if we want under New Business we can do another report but I think we kind of got blurred here all at once,” he said.
“We had the discussion on the report and out of that came a second motion,” said Aitcheson.
Eidt talked over Aitcheson. “Right so the second motion should be somewhere else.”
“We’ll deal with that motion then we’ll go back to the original motion which hasn’t been on the floor yet,” said Aitcheson. “So I do have a motion on the floor and that was moved by Coun. Kasenberg and Coun. Wilhelm to have staff bring back a report on a vaccination policy for the corporate sector and councillors.”
All council members except Eidt and Herlick voted in favour of the request for the report.
McKeen asked if the report could come back after the provincial government implemented the vaccine passport because she thought it would help with clarity.
“That’s fine because I think Sept. 22 is the full implementation with (the) passport,” said Aitcheson.
He then asked for the report on Oct. 21.
McKeen suggested that perhaps the report will come back for the Nov. 4 council meeting.
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner