MONTREAL — Quebecers who want to visit patients in hospitals will be required to show proof of vaccination to enter the institutions, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced Tuesday.
At a news conference updating the province's COVID-19 situation, Premier Francois Legault stressed the need to protect and support the province's health-care system as it experiences a fourth wave fuelled by the highly contagious Delta variant.
Quebec's vaccine passport system, the first in the country, has been in effect since Sept. 1 to access businesses and services deemed non-essential, such as bars, restaurants, gyms and festivals. Dubé said some exceptions will apply to the new hospital rule, such as when someone who is not vaccinated wishes to visit a dying loved one.
The health minister also announced that the ethics committee of Quebec's public health institute has approved a previously announced plan to make vaccination mandatory for health workers. The new measure will apply to all staff in the public and private sectors who are in regular contact with patients, including cleaning crews and receptionists, Dubé said.
He urged unvaccinated health workers to get their needles soon, saying that they will face suspension without pay if they are not adequately vaccinated by Oct. 15.
“We cannot accept that we have workers who put vulnerable people at risk,” Dubé said. "It's our responsibility to protect our health-care system."
Quebec had said on Aug. 17 it would require only health-care and social workers who deal with patients for more than 15 minutes to get fully vaccinated, but now the measure will apply to workers who have any contact with patients.
The institute's ethics committee in January said it was better to avoid mandatory vaccination of health-care workers out of respect for their autonomy and freedom of choice. But on Tuesday the committee said the pandemic situation has evolved so much that a change in its position was warranted.
Legault emphasized the fact the health-care network is currently facing a labour shortage while also dealing with an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Meanwhile, Quebec reported 515 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and no additional deaths attributed to the virus.
Health authorities said hospitalizations climbed to 171, up 11 from Monday, while the number of patients in intensive care rose to 68, an increase of four.
Dubé said that the recent increase in hospitalizations mainly involves people who are not vaccinated, adding that those people should not prevent vaccinated people from returning "to a certain normality."
Of the most recent infections, the province said 353 were among unvaccinated people or those who had received only one dose less than 14 days ago.
The province administered 10,042 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, for a total of 12,497,942.
About 87,8 per cent of Quebecers aged 12 and older have received at least one dose, while 82,1 per cent are considered fully vaccinated with two shots.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 7, 2021.
Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press