A coalition of major Canadian chains of for-profit nursing and retirement homes will soon demand that all staff be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Staff who haven’t received their two doses by Oct. 12 will be put on unpaid leave, and one channel has said those who refuse to get bitten risk losing their jobs. The group of large operators of long-term care and assisted living facilities – Chartwell, Extendicare, Responsive Group, Revera and Sienna – also said in a joint press release Thursday that any new hires, internship students and temporary staff will also need to prove that they have had both hits.
Nursing homes and retirement homes across Canada have seen thousands of their residents die from epidemics during the pandemic. Canada had the worst record of COVID-19 deaths in these outbreaks among other wealthy countries during the first wave.
“The frontline staff in every organization have shown an enthusiastic response to our voluntary vaccination programs. We thank them for their commitment, but we must do more, ”said the joint statement. “As infection rates rise again in communities across the country, unvaccinated staff are more likely to operate the virus. “
The warrant is similar to – and has the same timeframe as – British Columbia’s public health order requiring long-term care and assisted living workers to prove they have received their second dose of vaccine. If they cannot prove a medical exemption to get the vaccine, they will not be allowed to continue working at these facilities, according to the order announced earlier this month.
The companies’ new mandate goes beyond Ontario’s rules for these facilities, which state that staff without a medical reason to avoid vaccination will be subjected to regular testing to prove that they are not contagious. Unimmunized workers should also participate in a special course explaining the science behind vaccines, the benefits of receiving a vaccine, its possible side effects, and the risks of choosing not to be vaccinated.
In Quebec, two days of parliamentary committee hearings on the upcoming obligation for health care workers to be fully vaccinated began Thursday.
Sharon Ranalli, vice president of marketing and communications for Chartwell’s chain of 180 locations across the country, said the vast majority of its 16,000 employees have received at least one dose of the vaccine, but those rates haven’t still not offer sufficient protection to their customers. as more infectious variants emerge and as fall approaches. She said in an emailed statement that 92% and 86% of staff at the company’s long-term care homes and retirement complexes, respectively, have received at least one dose.
“Chartwell employees who decline vaccinations will be placed on unpaid leave and, depending on the circumstances, continued refusal to comply with our vaccination policy will result in termination of their employment,” she said.
A spokesperson for Sienna said nearly 90 percent of his workforce had received at least one dose and 84 percent were fully immunized, so he doesn’t expect this new mandate to affect staffing levels. .
Laura Gallant, spokesperson for Extendicare, said her company also doesn’t expect the new rule to have an impact on its workforce, as more than 90% of its 15,000 workers in the sector have received their first dose of vaccine. When asked if the company has the legal basis for forcing its employees to get vaccinated, she replied that Extendicare’s goal is to protect residents and staff at its facilities from the new variants.
“This is a critical moment in the pandemic,” she said in an emailed statement.
The new vaccination warrants have not been tested in Canadian courts, but British Columbia was granted the power to require influenza vaccination in an arbitration case brought by the BC Nurses’ Union in 2006. The court upheld a hospital policy that nurses must be vaccinated during a flu outbreak or take unpaid leave.
The virus has been very deadly in Ontario, killing 3,793 nursing home residents to date, official data shows. An independent provincial commission that examined the impact of COVID-19 on nursing homes across the province said for-profit companies, which own two-thirds of the province’s 626 long-term care homes, should not no longer take care of residents. The for-profit sector should continue to build facilities, he said, but should leave operations to organizations that are mission-driven, not profit-driven.
British Columbia seniors lawyer Isobel Mackenzie, an independent watchdog who reports to the provincial health ministry, on Thursday praised the business coalition for creating their own rules in the absence of a warrant national or provincial standards to protect this vulnerable sector from the virus.
“Obviously it’s not planned for all provinces, so they stepped up and spoke with one voice,” she said.
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