TORONTO — Ontario Premier Doug Ford is asking hospital CEOs, local medical officers of health and other health-care organizations for input on implementing vaccine mandates for staff at hospitals.
Many hospitals across the province have already enacted their own mandates, going beyond the current provincial policy of having hospital staff vaccinated or subject to frequent testing.
Ford's letter to the health leaders said some have suggested that a provincewide mandate is necessary, but he wants to explore the ramifications of any staffing shortages.
"Any decision will need to balance the risks posed by COVID-19 to hospitals with the risk of further exacerbating health human resourcing challenges and the risks these may pose to the sector's ongoing delivery of high-quality care," he wrote.
"We are already seeing other Canadian jurisdictions that have implemented mandatory vaccine policies, including British Columbia and Quebec, softening or delaying their implementation date."
Ford said at a news conference Friday that according to recent estimates, 15 per cent of the health system workforce is unvaccinated.
But the several hospitals who have already fired unvaccinated staff or placed them on unpaid leave through their own mandates are seeing numbers far below that.
The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario said Friday that 98.7 per cent of its personnel have complied with its policy, and 47 people, including 29 part-time and casual staff were placed on leave.
Queensway Carleton Hospital in Ottawa said Friday that 98 per cent of its staff members have chosen to get vaccinated, and it will be placing 37 unvaccinated employees, mostly part-time or casual staff, on leave. That number includes 11 nurses, two of which are full-time.
Cornwall Community Hospital said Friday that it expects to place 33 staff members, or 2.8 per cent of its active workforce, on leave.
Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare in Windsor, Ont., terminated 24 employees - or two per cent of its staff - this week over non-compliance with its policy. Cambridge Memorial Hospital put 51 employees on leave - around three per cent of its staff.
The hospitals have said the numbers are such that they aren't affecting operations or patient care.
In his letter, Ford asked health-care leaders to provide input on potential impacts of a vaccine mandate, anything more the government could be doing to increase vaccine uptake among health-care workers, and whether unvaccinated staff could be reassigned to non-front-line roles.
He also asked the hospital CEOs specifically what impact a mandatory policy would have on diagnostic procedures or elective surgeries.
"What is this going to do to the system months down the road?" Ford said Friday at his press conference.
"What's it going to do when when people go in there for cancer surgery, (or) diagnostics? What is it going to do to our health-care system as a whole? So those are the answers that I'm requesting that the CEOs send back to us."
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said Friday that he is in discussions with the Ontario Medical Association and the Ontario College of Family Physicians about immunization policies for primary care doctors.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 15, 2021.
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press