Wellington County hospitals put 14 unvaccinated staff on unpaid leave

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Fourteen staff at Wellington County hospitals were put on unpaid leave on Oct. 13 for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Wellington Health Care Alliance (WHCA), which includes Groves Memorial Community Hospital in Fergus, Louise Marshall Hospital in Mount Forest, and Palmerston and District Hospital, joined with other hospitals in the region to implement a mandatory vaccination policy for all staff.

According to the policy, announced on Sept. 7, staff had until Oct. 12 to receive their first dose of the vaccine and in the interim, unvaccinated staff were required to have antigen testing twice a week, attend an educational session and meet with occupational health.

Angela Stanley, the new WHCA president and CEO, said 98 per cent of the 671 staff on the three campuses have been vaccinated, which is a pretty great number.

“The 2% of staff who did not receive a first dose by October 12th, will be put on an unpaid leave starting October 13th. [That] equates to 14 staff in total across all three hospital sites,” she stated in an email.

“While we do not wish to lose any of our dedicated and skilled staff, we respect that everyone must make the best decision for themselves.

“This policy ensures [the hospitals are] taking every step possible to protect our patients and our staff. We thank everyone who has complied with the policy, and thank those that are working towards full vaccination status.”

Stanley said she did not expect any disruption in hospital services or programs as a result.

Communications manager Alison Armstrong said there was one COVID-19 outbreak at Palmerston and District Hospital in February, but the other two hospitals have had none.

At Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, which has the same vaccination policy as the three Wellington hospitals, 97% of staff and physicians are compliant, with 136 staff and physicians placed on unpaid leave or have their privileges suspended.

Guelph General Hospital, which also has the same policy, had 31 staff (less than 2%) placed on leave.