Kitchener-Waterloo

No changes to COVID-19 vaccination policy planned at local hospitals

Grand River Hospital, Cambridge Memorial Hospital and Guelph General Hospital say there will be no change in their staff vaccination policies, even after Premier Doug Ford announced the province will note mandate health-care workers get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Hospital policy is 'based in science,' says Grand River Hospital

Staff in the intensive care unit at Guelph General Hospital are pictured on April 27, 2021. The hospital says its vaccination policy is unchanged despite Premier Doug Ford's announcement that the province won't mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for health-care workers. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Two of Waterloo region's three hospitals say they have no plans to change their policies to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province would not impose a mandate.

Grand River Hospital in Kitchener and Cambridge Memorial Hospital have both said their policies remain in place.

"At this time, we have no plans to review or change our policy which is based in science and supported by infection prevention and control experts and the provincial science table," a spokesperson for Grand River Hospital said in an email to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

Similarly, a spokesperson for Cambridge Memorial Hospital wrote, "We are not considering a change to the vaccination policy at this time."

A Guelph General Hospital spokesperson also said no changes are planned.

"Our current mandated vaccination policy that has been also been adopted by many other hospitals across the province will not change at this time. Our board of directors unanimously supported our vaccine policy without there being a provincial mandate in place," the statement said.

Lee Fairclough, president of St. Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener, issued a statement Thursday saying the hospital "supports mandatory vaccinations for our physicians, staff, volunteers and care partners."

"We continue to trust the science and the data that demonstrates the importance of vaccination in our fight against COVID-19. We will not change course around mandatory vaccinations for anyone that works at or with St. Mary's. As healthcare providers, it is our responsibility to do everything that we can to protect our patients and our staff," the statement said.

Mandate could mean 'significant' job losses: Minister

On Wednesday, Ford said Ontario won't make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for those working in health care.

"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," Ford said in a news release.

Later in the day, Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters the province decided not to impose a vaccine mandate on health-care workers because hospitals would experience "significant" job losses, but the province supports the right of hospitals to make individual decisions.

The move was criticized by the opposition parties.

In a news release, Guelph MPP and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner called it "a slap in the face to patients and their families who deserve to be safe as well as to the vast majority of healthcare workers who have called for mandatory vaccines."

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath accused Ford of "catering to anti-vaxxers."

"Unvaccinated staff should not be allowed in the ICU, in pediatric wards with sick babies, in the homes of vulnerable home care patients, or anywhere at all in health care, or in our children's schools," she said in a statement.

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said Ford "should be ashamed" for not mandating health-care workers to have vaccines.

"Doug Ford has chosen anti-vaxxers over cancer patients. He's putting our most vulnerable patients in harm's way because he's scared that the Conservative anti-vax community won't support his re-election otherwise," Del Duca said in a news release.

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