Ford won’t mandate vaccines for frontline hospital staff

Premier Doug Ford says the province will not mandate COVID-19 vaccines for frontline healthcare workers.

“Having looked at the evidence, our government has decided to maintain its flexible approach by leaving human resourcing decisions up to individual hospitals,” Ford said in a statement released on Wednesday.

The decision goes against a recommendation last month from Ontario’s science table which called for mandatory vaccinations for all healthcare workers in order to enhance safety, reduce the risk of staffing disruptions, and protect people working to treat others.

In a letter published to Ford, the science group said requiring hospital workers to be vaccinated is an evidence-based policy that protects Ontarians.

Ford acknowledged that the issue is a complex one but in the end he elected to leave the staffing decisions in the hands of the hospitals.

“When the impact of the potential departure of tens of thousands of health care workers is weighed against the small number of outbreaks that are currently active in Ontario’s hospitals, I am not prepared to jeopardize the delivery of care to millions of Ontarians.”

When asked where the Premier was getting that number, Health Minister Christine Elliott says it was based on old information.

“That was a number that was based on the Premier’s understanding of the situation before the letter was sent out,” said Elliott, speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park.

NDP Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath is calling on the government to provide more transparency when it comes to their decision-making process.

“The minister and the government need to show the evidence, show the documentation, show how they got to this decision when its the opposite decision from what was advised by the Ontario Hospital Association and by the science table,” said Horwath.

“There argument is full of holes,” says John Fraser, the Ontario Liberal critic for health and long-term care. “They’re like Swiss cheese. It’s almost absurd in what they’re suggesting.”

“The Premier has decided to listen to anti-vaxxers,” added Fraser.

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner called the decision a slap in the face to patients and their families.

“Instead of doing the right thing and mandating vaccines for healthcare workers, Ford is endangering high-risk patients and increasing the risk of healthcare worker absenteeism due to COVID-19 outbreaks,” said Schreiner.

The Ontario Hospital Association released a statement, expressing disappointment in the decision from the Ford government. The association says the province’s approach to ensuring health care workers are vaccinated “remain vital to preventing” spread of the virus.

“Vaccination has already had a meaningful impact in the long-term care sector for both residents and staff,” says OHA president Anthony Dale. “Following the government’s implementation of a mandatory vaccine requirement for long-term care operators, the current number of outbreaks across all homes is lower than in hospitals.”

“Given the sacrifices that have been made throughout the pandemic by businesses and wider society to protect the finite resources of the health care system, health care workers have a moral imperative to take every precaution possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

A number of Ontario hospitals have already implemented their own mandatory vaccine policies.

Doris Grinspun, head of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, called the decision “a disgrace to patients and to the great majority of health-care workers who desperately are supporting mandatory vaccination.”

Wednesday’s announcement came hours after the province rolled out its plan for COVID-19 booster shots.


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