‘We take this directive very seriously’: Will vaccines be made mandatory for staff at Stevenson Memorial Hospital?

Vaccination policies will soon come into effect at hospitals across Ontario, and the key decision will be whether vaccines will become mandatory for health-care workers.

Stevenson Memorial Hospital (SMH) in Alliston has been working on its policy since the province’s chief medial officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, issued a directive Aug. 17 requiring all hospitals, home- and community-care service providers, and ambulance services to have a COVID-19 vaccination policy in place by Sept. 7.

Moore said this directive is the bare minimum, and organizations may go beyond this measure by making vaccines mandatory.

The Toronto University Health Network and Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario have already stated vaccines will be mandatory for staff unless a person is medically exempt from receiving one.

It remains to be seen if vaccines will become mandatory for staff at SMH.

“We take this directive very seriously and have been providing educational resources, regular updates on local vaccination clinics, and encouraging staff to provide their vaccination status to our Occupational Health Department since vaccines have come available to health-care workers early this year,” SMH president and CEO Jody Levac said in a written statement provided to Simcoe.com.

Levac said the health and safety of staff, patients and members of the community is “paramount” and the hospital will “fully comply with the directive” for vaccine mandates and regular testing for those who are not vaccinated or fully vaccinated.

“Our goal is 100 per cent compliance,” he said.

The hospital declined to tell Simcoe.com what percentage of its staff has been vaccinated at this stage.

“We are regularly updating our staff vaccination status through Occupational Health, and are concerned with releasing it at this time due to accuracy as it changes daily,” Levac said. “It is possible that some of our staff have not provided us with their vaccine confirmation. This is a high priority as we look to implement our COVID-19 vaccination policy in the coming weeks.”

The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario and the Ontario Medical Association are just some of the groups that have called on the province to make vaccines mandatory for health-care workers.

Vaccines are strongly encouraged at local long-term-care homes and retirement homes, but they have not yet been made mandatory for existing staff.

According to the latest figures provided by the County of Simcoe, 96 per cent of the 1,000 employees who work in senior services received their first dose, and about 90 per cent are fully vaccinated.

At Simcoe Manor in Beeton, about 93 per cent of Simcoe Manor staff have received one dose, and about 88 per cent are fully vaccinated.

The county updated its hiring policies earlier this year, making it mandatory for every new employee to be fully vaccinated. All volunteers and students are also required to have both shots.

At Kingsmere Retirement Residence in Alliston, more than 70 per cent of staff have received at least one dose, according to Sienna Senior Living spokesperson Nadia Daniell-Colarossi. She said the company’s overall staff vaccination rate is close to 90 per cent.

“Sienna Senior Living supports the Ontario Long-Term Care Association’s advocacy on mandatory vaccines for all health-care workers while we continue with our robust vaccine campaign for team members,” Daniell-Colarossi said in a statement.

The company announced Aug. 26 that vaccinations for staff members would be mandatory.

As of July 1 of this year, she said, any team member who has not received at least one dose of the vaccine is required to provided a doctor’s note explaining their medical exemption, as well as participate in an educational program, and to be tested for COVID-19 at the start of every shift.