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City, OSMH to keep vaccination policies in place

Hospital has 'higher standard to do everything we can to protect the vulnerable,' president says
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As COVID-19 restrictions ease across the province, vaccination policies will remain in place at the City of Orillia and the local hospital.

Last September, the province directed hospitals to develop immunization policies. Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH) required all employees, credentialed staff, contractors, students and volunteers to show proof of full vaccination or undergo regular testing and an education session.

That will not change.

“We consider vaccines a public health protection. Given the prevalence that still exists in the community, we feel we have a higher standard to do everything we can to protect the vulnerable,” said OSMH president and CEO Carmine Stumpo.

He doesn’t view vaccination requirements as a restriction, he added.

“It is a public health protection.”

OSMH is far from alone in keeping an immunization policy in place, Stumpo said, noting it is “pretty consistent that the vaccination policies are going to be maintained” at hospitals in the province.

OSMH still requires proof of full vaccination for new hires, and Stumpo said the number of people whose jobs have been terminated for violating the policy hasn’t changed since December. They represent less than one per cent of the workforce.

Meanwhile, the hospital is “busier than ever,” he said.

With surgical procedures having resumed for inpatients and outpatients, and with more beds open, OSMH is “in a precarious position in terms of staffing.”

“People are rising to the occasion, but it remains a challenge,” he said.

Recruitment is difficult, but the issue extends to existing staff, too.

The number of staff with documented cases of COVID-19 is 10 to 15 at any given time, while the number of staff staying home due to exposure can be between 15 and 20.

There are also four or five patients with COVID-19 in the hospital on any given day.

With restrictions being lifted, Stumpo has a message for the community.

“Please continue the public health protections that we know work well and please be extra kind to everyone,” he said.

The province is lifting its mask mandate March 21, but visitors to OSMH will still be required to wear hospital-issued masks and show proof of vaccination before entering.

The City of Orillia’s immunization policy will also stay in place.

“As public health measures continue to ease, public health indicates that getting the COVID-19 vaccine remains the best defence against severe illness, hospitalization and death,” CAO Gayle Jackson said in a statement.

“No changes to this policy are anticipated at this time. The City of Orillia will continue to review our policies and procedures related to COVID-19. As this is a council-approved policy, any proposed changes would be presented to council for consideration.”