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Ontario hospitals seeing low rates of staff losses to mandatory vaccine policies

TORONTO — Several Ontario hospitals have placed staff on unpaid leave or terminated them due to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies, but they say the numbers are relatively low and won't affect patient care.

TORONTO — Several Ontario hospitals have placed staff on unpaid leave or terminated them due to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies, but they say the numbers are relatively low and won't affect patient care.

A spokesman for Cambridge Memorial Hospital said 51 staff members who either haven't been vaccinated or won't share their status have been placed on leave.

"Because it is a low number and it is spread across corporate and clinical services that we are confident there will be no impacts to patient care," Stephan Beckhoff said in a statement.

Nearly 97 per cent of staff are either fully or partially vaccinated and have attested they will have both doses by Nov. 9, he said.

St. Mary's General Hospital expects to put around 30 staff members on unpaid leave Wednesday.

Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare in Windsor, Ont., said it terminated 24 employees with cause last week, and since that amounts to just two per cent of its workforce it is well able to fill gaps to cover schedules.

"We developed contingency plans well in advance of the policy deadline including the two-week unpaid suspension of employees who were not complying with the policy at that time," spokesman Bill Marra said in a written statement.

"With a 98 per cent compliance rate at the deadline, we are very much able to accommodate all gaps in our schedules by increasing work hours through our part-time work force and when necessary, overtime hours for some employees."

There has been no impact on the delivery of programs and services, he said.

The 24 employees include eight registered practical nurses, five registered nurses, as well as environmental service workers, rehab assistants, administrative staff and others.

The Wellington Health Care Alliance will put two per cent of its staff who haven't received a first dose on leave Wednesday. It amounts to 14 people over three sites and a spokeswoman said they don't expect any disruptions to hospital services or programs.

Many more hospitals have set mandatory vaccination deadlines of Oct. 15 or 31, as well as a few other dates.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott said the government has put more than $52 million toward recruiting, retaining and supporting more than 3,700 front-line health-care workers and recently announced $61 million for recruiting and retaining nurses.

A group of long-term care home and retirement home chains had also set deadlines of Tuesday for staff to be vaccinated or placed on unpaid leave. They didn't disclose numbers of staff that were placed on leave, but most said they had achieved high vaccination rates, with 96 per cent of employees having received at least one dose.

Ontario logged 458 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 390 new cases Tuesday, and two deaths over the two days.

More than 87 per cent of eligible Ontarians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 82.4 per cent have received both doses.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 12, 2021.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

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