Unvaccinated nurses won't be allowed to practise in Quebec, order confirms

Quebec's Order of Nurses will officially suspend the licences of front-line health workers who aren't adequately vaccinated against COVID-19 by Friday.

More than 4,000 nurses face suspension ahead of Oct. 15 deadline

Quebec has ordered that all front-line health workers be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15 or else they will be suspended. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The president of the Quebec Order of Nurses says the order will suspend the licences of nurses who aren't adequately vaccinated against COVID-19 by Friday. 

The decision comes after Health Minister Christian Dubé asked that all professional orders in the health sector suspend the licences of workers who aren't immunized.

On Monday, the union representing nurses, the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), said it plans to challenge "any decision that could cause disproportionate harm" to its members in court. 

"It is clear to the FIQ that protecting the health and safety of the most vulnerable people and of staff remains the priority," the federation wrote in a Facebook post.

"On the other hand, the FIQ considers the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec's decision excessive given that front-line health-care professionals who are not adequately vaccinated will already be suspended without pay."

Quebec's College of Physicians already announced it would suspend unvaccinated members' right to practise in person and remotely, until they received both doses.

Among nurses, 4,338 aren't fully vaccinated, and 2,807 haven't received their first dose, Luc Mathieu, president of the Quebec Order of Nurses, told Radio-Canada's Tout un matin.

The 5,176 nurses whose vaccination status is unclear because of administrative issues will be contacted by Wednesday to sort out their status. Only employees working remotely are exempted from the mandatory vaccination measure.

Suspended nurses can get their licence back after providing proof of full vaccination. The order won't administer exams to reintegrate nurses, even though some may have be inactive for several months.

"We had the choice between limiting or suspending," Mathieu said. "For clarity and communication purposes, it was simpler to suspend."

As of Oct. 15, all front-line health workers in Quebec must be fully vaccinated or they will be suspended without pay.

"Suspending or even limiting a member's licence isn't nothing," Mathieu said. "We wanted to make sure that before transmitting information to our members and taking an informed position, we had conversations with representatives from the ministry to clarify some things."

In a tweet, Dubé said he welcomes the decision, adding that it will be impossible to bypass mandatory vaccinations in the health sector come Oct. 15.

"I encourage all nurses who haven't gotten vaccinated to go now," he wrote. "It's never too late."

Same applies to respiratory therapists

Quebec's Order of Respiratory Therapists will also be suspending licences for unvaccinated members, Radio-Canada reports.

Josée Prud'homme, executive director of the order, said she's in favour of the requirement.

"We have no choice but to apply this decree," she said. "As we speak, vaccination is the only scientifically proven way to end this pandemic. We can't help but agree with the measure."

More than 96 per cent of the 4,000 respiratory therapists working in Quebec are adequately vaccinated.

The vaccination rate is one of the highest in the health-care network, Prud'homme said.

The 150 members of the order who still do not meet the vaccination requirement will have their licences suspended.

With files from Radio-Canada's Maud Cucchi, Sharon Yonan-Renold