Eighteen unvaccinated Bluewater health workers lose jobs and privileges

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Eighteen Bluewater Health healthcare workers were – or had already been – laid off or lost their hospital privileges on Monday for failing to comply with a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.

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Those unvaccinated included four in full-time clinical positions, said director of human resources and occupational health Colleen Cook.

More than 1,900 people are employed or have hospital privileges with the Sarnia Hospital Company and Petrolia, she said.

“The fact that we’ve been able to have 99% compliance, we’re very happy with it,” Cook said.

Bluewater Health announced early September all healthcare workers should be fully immunized by October 31 – or being vaccinated – or lose their jobs.

Professional staff such as physicians and midwives would lose their hospital privileges if they did not comply.

Staff and professional staff, as well as those responsible for non-clinical support services, were included in the group of 18, Cook said.

Twenty-five who received their first dose but are not yet fully immunized are on unpaid leave until their second dose plus two weeks, the time it takes for the vaccination to take effect.

Anyone in that group who is fully vaccinated will be able to return to work, Cook said.

“We have worked with individuals until last week,” she said.

Four weeks are needed between doses of vaccine.

People in the Group of 18 and Group of 25 come from disparate areas of the hospital, she said.

Every day, 20 to 30 people can make themselves sick at work, said communications chief Julia Oosterman, so the impact on patient care is “quite manageable,” she said.

The aim was not to fire anyone, she said.

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The vaccination policy was an update to an earlier Bluewater Health policy to vaccinate or test that went into effect on September 7.

Similar policies exist in other Ontario hospitals. The reason for Bluewater Health’s policy is to protect healthcare workers, patients and their families, hospital company CEO Mike Lapaine said while calling the policy “tough but fair.”

Public health officials have also called for vaccination policies in local workplaces.

The folks at Bluewater Health want to know they are working alongside vaccinated colleagues, Lapaine said earlier this month .

“And I think our patients need to be assured that when they come to Bluewater for care, they are being treated by those who are fully immunized.”

The policy is part of a phased plan, officials said in a press release, to ensure all employees, professional staff, volunteers and students are vaccinated unless they have a valid exemption. .

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