by Kevin Burton
Thirteen employees at an Ontario hospital, were terminated last week for defying a mandatory Covid vaccination policy, according to published reports.
Sault Area Hospital in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada fired eight nurses and five support staff after they failed to get a first vaccine shot by the Nov. 22 deadline, reported SooToday, an online newspaper.
Those who received a first dose before the deadline now have until Dec. 20 to be fully vaccinated and continue employment.
Seventy employees were in danger of losing their jobs as of Nov. 4, but most opted to get vaccinated.
“Like many other hospitals in Ontario, including those in our region, we recognize the importance of mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers as a critical tool in protecting patient, physician, staff and volunteer safety, as well as avoiding disruption to vital hospital services and programs,” the hospital said in a statement.
The hospital reports that vaccination rates among its staff and medical professionals have risen steadily since vaccination policies were introduced several months ago.
“This action helps reduce transmission of COVID-19 and decreases the risk of disruption to hospital operations and other unexpected staff absences due to illness,” the hospital wrote.
Senior hospital staff studied the possibility of terminations leaving the facility short-staffed very closely and contingency plans are in place, SAH president and CEO Ila Watson told the Sault Star newspaper.
As of Nov. 23 all employees were fully vaccinated or in process of becoming fully vaccinated except for those with an approved medical exemption under Canada’s Human Rights Code.
Those with medical exemptions must complete rapid antigen point-of-care testing twice a week and attend an education session approved by SAH.
The hospital followed other area health facilities in enforcing a vaccine mandate despite not having any such direction from the Ontario government.
“The Ontario government has refused to implement a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement for hospitals, despite lobby efforts from the Ontario Hospital Association, which said a mandate has been endorsed by 120 of its 141 member hospitals,” wrote Elaine Della-Mattia of The Sault Star.
A vaccine mandate by the government in British Columbia resulted in 3,000 terminations, leaving the health-care system in that province strained and forcing cancellations of surgeries and diagnostic testing said Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
If anybody is pursuing legal action against the Sault Area Hospital because of the mandatory vaccine policy, neither news organization mentioned them.
There have been recent legal challenges to vaccine mandates in Canada, with mixed results.
An arbiter ruled Nov. 11 in favor of an employees union against Electrical Safety Authority just two days after a different arbiter ruled against a union and in favor of Paragon Protection Ltd., a company that provides workplace security, in a separate case.
The National Law Review, which reported on the two cases, said many of the employees at Electrical Safety Authority were working remotely and that was part of the reason why that company’s vaccine mandate was deemed unreasonable.
The arbiter in the ESA case found that employees were at “no significant risk related to an outbreak, infections, or significant interference with employer’s operations,” National Law Review reported.
The vaccination mandate at Paragon was upheld, in part because the collective bargaining agreement in place contained language requiring employees to be vaccinated in certain situations.
The law review said the paragon case appears to be the first in which an employer vaccine mandate stood up under legal scrutiny.
The arbiter ruled that Paragon, “has an obligation and responsibility to protect the health and safety of its employees.”
Given the wealth of scientific information available, “the issue of an employee choosing not to be vaccinated based on ‘personal preferences’ cannot displace and override available scientific considerations and health and safety requirements.”