Ontario’s largest hospital system will require mandatory and frequent testing for any staff who choose not to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The University Health Network, which includes Toronto General Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital, among others, will be the first major hospital and research organization in Ontario to create immunization requirements for health care workers.
The move comes as several countries have already made vaccination mandatory for healthcare workers amid the rise of the rapidly spreading Delta variant. And with fears of a fourth wave, the lack of a mandatory vaccination policy in Ontario has led some companies and institutions to develop their own policies.
UHN aims to implement new rules that will create testing requirements for unvaccinated staff in its network by August 9.
In an email to The Star, UHN said it began communicating its new policy to staff at the end of June, so all employees, full-time, part-time or casual, would be well informed. time of its application.
“We are doing this to keep patients and staff as safe as possible. The best protection for anyone is the dual vaccination, which has been made available to all UHN employees, ”said Gillian Howard, spokesperson for UHN.
Once the policy is in place, staff should declare if they are vaccinated, if they cannot be vaccinated for a valid medical reason and provide documentation, if they do not wish to report their vaccination status or if they choose not to be vaccinated.
Anyone who is not vaccinated should take rapid home COVID-19 tests 48 hours before their shift, which is about three times a week, Howard said. Those who do not report their immunization status or who choose not to be vaccinated should take a vaccine education module.
About 18,000 UHN staff had already reported their immunization status as of July 12 and 750 home test kits had been distributed, according to UHN.
The vaccination rate for full-time staff is now 85 and 90 percent, Howard said.
“We are now working to ensure that part-time and casual staff are aware of the reporting requirement,” she added.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said last week he did not support any evidence of immunization in any context. Ford said no one should be “forced” to get shot.
His comments came as several countries, including France and Italy, have put in place mandatory vaccination policies for people working in health care. France also introduced a COVID-19 health pass on Wednesday as infections rose as the country faced a fourth wave of the virus.
The pass requires a recent negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination in order to visit cultural centers, museums, sports venues and cinemas.
The Delta variant continued to spread throughout Europe. There are fears that the same could happen in Canada if hundreds of thousands of people still go unvaccinated, despite the availability of the vaccine in abundance. In Ontario, 80 percent of adults have received one dose and 66 percent have received two doses, as of Friday.
The Star asked several hospitals on Friday if they plan to implement policies similar to UHN’s. Mount Sinai Hospital said in a statement that it strongly encourages people to get vaccinated and that it recognizes other public health measures as well as immunizations, such as wearing masks and physical distancing, are also crucial in stopping the spread.
William Osler Health System, which serves Brampton and North Etobicoke, told The Star that as of June 7, all new employees must have at least one shot of the vaccine. However, it is currently not mandatory for other staff.
The healthcare system also said it was implementing strict safety measures for employees, including self-monitoring and self-testing, while stressing the “importance of vaccines.”
Andrew Boozary, executive director of social medicine at the University Health Network, said there is a need for health facilities like hospitals to implement vaccination policies in the absence of federal and provincial mandates.
“Now we only have a while without having policies in place in hospitals and other health care facilities to really encourage, push and move people to make sure they are vaccinated and to protect people at home. ‘hospital and people outside the hospital’ mentioned.
As fall approaches, governments need to look to other countries and jurisdictions to see what policies have been created and what has worked and what has not, Boozary said. Patchwork policies are problematic in a pandemic and there needs to be a clearer focus in order to avoid a fourth wave.
“Where we have not been effective as a health system is being able to learn from other health systems to better protect and inform our own policies,” he said.
It is time for leadership to step up the implementation of proof of vaccination at least in a healthcare setting, as this is a critical time to prevent further spread of the present Delta variant infection. , he explained.
“We know again how precarious it can be, given what we’ve been through with each wave,” he said. “We really can’t afford to be behind on this point. “