A COVID-19 vaccination policy is now in effect at the Sundridge Medical Centre. The policy, developed by the centre's two doctors, states anyone connected with the centre must be vaccinated. This includes the physicians, all health-care providers, administrative and management personnel. Also included are any volunteers at the medical centre, students or interns doing work at the facility and independent contractors. The policy applies to all existing employees and any new hires. People who refuse to be vaccinated face firing. Dr. Sarah MacKinnon, one of the physicians who developed the policy, said “all current staff have two vaccines.” It's her hope employees would also soon receive their booster shot. In making the case for creating the policy, MacKinnon said “we feel it's critical for the medical centre to have a fully vaccinated staff. “We have maximum protection for every patient walking in so we are not vectors for transmission giving people illness.” The policy details the reasons why medical centre workers need to be vaccinated. It points out the medical centre sees frail, elderly and immune-compromised patients, including children under the age of 12. It adds this is a vulnerable group of people because the vaccine is not as effective in protecting them or they cannot or will not be vaccinated. “We owe a duty to these individuals and our co-workers to keep each other safe,” states the policy. “The vaccine will enable us to protect ourselves and our patients by reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death.” Dr. Marion Baechler, the other physician who helped create the policy, told the Sundridge and District Medical Centre Committee it's important to get the booster shot because the omicron variant of COVID-19 is much more contagious. Baechler said when COVID first arrived in 2021, one person with the virus could make two people sick. When it morphed into the delta variant, one person with this variant could make three to four people sick. A person who has the omicron variant can make four to eight people ill. Baechler further said the omicron variant is expected to be the dominant strain and the number of people contracting this variant doubles every two to three days. Evidence shows the spread of the virus can be slowed down, she said, and this is where the vaccine enters the picture. Studies show that people who have had two shots of the vaccine, will see their immunity wane over time, but the immunity remains high if they have had a booster. Even with a booster, Baechler says, people should still social distance, wash their hands and wear masks. Despite the requirement staff be fully vaccinated, the policy allows for exceptions for employer-approved medical or religious exemptions under the Ontario Human Rights Code. If applying for a medical exemption, the person needs an objectively written medical certificate from a physician or nurse practitioner that states the individual has a legitimate medical condition to the vaccine. An allergist or immunologist must have confirmed the individual would have a severe allergy or anaphylactic reaction to a previous dose of COVID-19 vaccine. In the case of someone seeking a religious exemption, the individual has to explain in writing why receiving the vaccine would go against their creed or religion. Personal or philosophical objections to the vaccine don't count as an exemption. In both cases, the employer has the right to decide on the exemptions in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code. The policy will remain in effect until the employer decides to discontinue it. It can also be updated and revised at any time without notice.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget