WELLINGTON COUNTY – Local hospitals have joined others in Guelph and Waterloo Region in implementing a requirement for all staff, physicians, students, volunteers and contractors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Groves Memorial Community Hospital in Aboyne and North Wellington Health Care (NWHC) hospitals in Palmerston and Mount Forest announced the policy in a Sept. 1 press release, jointly issued with Guelph General Hospital, Cambridge Memorial Hospital, Grand River Hospital, Homewood Health Centre and St. Mary’s General Hospital.
The new policy states that anyone working with or at the hospitals must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 12 or have submitted a medical or legislated exemption by then.
Staff that do not meet these requirements will be placed on a leave without pay and have until early November to meet the policy, officials stated in the joint press release.
“[Groves and NWHC] continue to prioritize the health and safety of our patients and team members who are providing care,” stated Stephen Street, president and CEO of the local hospital corporations.
“We are happy to report that approximately 90% of our staff and professional staff are fully vaccinated. We are grateful to those who have already been fully vaccinated to protect our patients, colleagues, family and friends.”
Street stressed the hospitals “need to ensure that we have taken every safety measure to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, particularly with the increased transmission of the Delta variant in our communities. The impact of an outbreak on our ability to care for patients is an on-going concern, particularly with the degree of transmissibility of the Delta variant.”
He added, “Our vaccination policy, just like our personal protective equipment (PPE), is another safety measure that will help us mitigate this risk.”
Directive 6, issued Aug. 17 by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, mandates that high risk settings, such as hospitals, must have COVID-19 vaccination policies in place by Sept. 7.
“To protect both staff and patients, local hospitals are working together to ensure health care can continue to be delivered as safely as possible in our community,” states the release from area hospitals.
As part of these new policies, area hospitals announced last month that new staff and volunteers would be required to be fully vaccinated.
The move to extend mandatory vaccinations to all existing physicians, staff, contractors, students and volunteers is the next step forward towards the implementation of the new vaccination policies, hospital officials state.
“Protecting the health and safety of our patients and staff has always been our priority,” says Lee Fairclough, president of St. Mary’s General Hospital and hospital lead for COVID response.
“Vaccines are an important tool in the COVID fight and in our response to the highly transmissible Delta variant—something that we have witnessed the impact of firsthand.
“We are pleased that vaccination rates are high within our hospitals and community and are very grateful to everyone who has chosen to become fully vaccinated. It is our responsibility to implement every safety measure possible to protect our patients and teams.”
The new policies, which come into effect Sept. 7, require existing staff and volunteers who are unvaccinated to undergo a mandatory education session along with twice-weekly antigen testing submitting negative test results prior to coming on-site.
As of Oct. 12, anyone working with or at the hospitals must be fully vaccinated or have submitted a medical or legislated exemption. Staff that do not meet this will be on a leave without pay and have until early-November to meet the policy, officials state in the joint press release.
Anyone looking to receive a vaccination can visit wdgpublichealth.ca/drop-ins for more information.