Hundreds of health care workers at London hospitals remain unvaccinated

Hundreds of health care workers at London, Ont. hospitals remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.

The latest statistics come as vaccine deadlines approach at both London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and St. Joseph’s Health Care, that could push some staff out the door.

With fewer than three weeks until its mandatory vaccine deadline of Oct. 22, LHSC says 96 per cent of its medical staff and 91 per cent of its staff are fully vaccinated.

With a total staff of about 15,000 people at both its Victoria and University campuses, that leaves several hundred still without the COVID-19 vaccination.

Speaking at a virtual news briefing Monday, LHSC Executive Vice President, Chief Clinical Officer and Chief Nursing Officer Carol Young-Ritchie said, they’re working with those still not there.

“What we’re really focusing on at this point is reaching out to all the staff who have not been vaccinated and offering any support we can. Certainly we’re a large research-based organization and looking to help those staff who might have questions, and also reviewing the exemptions that might come through for medical exemptions or human rights exemptions,” explains Young-Ritchie.

The organization’s rule on staff vaccinations comes as LHSC, like other health centres, deals with a nursing shortage exacerbated by the pandemic.

“We don’t want to lose any of our team,” said Young-Ritchie. “Everyone here is important in the work that we have ahead. But again, our focus is supporting our staff, and I think those numbers are going to come up.”

By contrast, St. Joseph’s Health Care is mandating that only new staff be vaccinated. Anyone on the job before Sept. 7 is being given a choice of whether to get the shot to continue working.

Those who decline must take a vaccine education course and submit to rapid testing three times per week. Staff and physicians have until Sept. 30 to declare their vaccine status.

St. Joseph’s says of those who have reported so far, 87.8 per cent have reported two doses (staff and physicians combined). This number reflects 3,990 individuals out of a total of 4,545.

Middlesex-London Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie says patients are at greater risk when health care workers remain unvaccinated, but he’s encouraged by the vaccine rates at local hospitals so far.

“Of course health care workers being unvaccinated would potentially put some of their more vulnerable clients at risk. It’s encouraging to see the high uptick we’re seeing at Middlesex-London Health Unit, London Health Sciences Centre.”

The Ontario Nurses Association declined a request from CTV News for an interview but issued a statement saying it encourages members to get vaccinated, but does not support penalization or termination of those who choose not to.