Unvaccinated staff at Barrie's Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) face termination next month if they don’t comply with its mandatory vaccination policy.
In the interim, those who don’t abide by the rules are being given plenty of notice, says Darrell Sewell, RVH’s vice-president of facilities and its chief human resources officer.
“The hospital was transparent and up front and communicated all timelines and consequences related to not following Directive 6 from the government of Ontario and/or following RVH policy,” he said. “It was shared many, many times (through) multiple forums."
In Windsor, approximately 172 staff members at two hospitals have been suspended without pay for not having at least one COVID-19 vaccination dose by Sept. 22, which was required to stay on the job.
The Barrie hospital’s vaccination policy was implemented at the beginning of September and is being rolled out in a multi-stage process, which began with mandatory testing twice per week for unvaccinated staff.
Testing began Sept. 9, with subsequent testing on Mondays and Thursdays for all staff who don’t show proof of dual vaccination.
“We continue to provide coaching letters to individuals who did not attend and should have attended mandatory testing on 9th, 13th and 16th (of September),” Sewell said. “A large proportion of our workforce who are not double-dosed did attend the testing.
“But there certainly was a number of individuals who did not and we needed to provide them with coaching letters," he added.
The number of people required to be tested dropped "significantly" with every subsequent testing day, Sewell said.
After three letters, the hospital then issues a written warning for those who didn’t show up for testing. That began on Monday.
“That number was much smaller than Thursday the 16th,” which was under 100, Sewell said.
The next stage for those not complying with mandatory testing is a one-day suspension next week, after the results from today’s and next Monday’s testing are reviewed.
The unvaccinated who don’t show up at the next two testing days — Sept. 30 and Oct. 4 — will then be terminated.
“Individuals who are non-compliant with mandatory testing under Directive 6, that will be an exit from the organization,” Sewell said. “That is in advance of our Oct. 8 deadline for not being double-dosed. If you are not double-dosed by Oct. 8, you are on an unpaid leave of absence.
“And further, if you are not double-dosed by Oct. 31, there will be further termination," he added.
There are medical exemptions and the ability for people to make a claim for accommodation under the Ontario Human Rights Code. For those people, twice-weekly testing will continue.
Sewell says the hospital’s goal is to have a workforce that is 100 per cent vaccinated to protect the community and the its workforce. He said it's likely that 95 per cent of RVH staff has had at least one COVID-19 vaccination with the vast majority double-dosed.
“It’s absolutely our best defence against this virus is to have a fully vaccinated workforce so we can protect our patients, our community and the vaccinated workforce,” he said. “The vast majority are on board with becoming fully vaccinated, and they know why — to protect our patients who come to us for care.”