Local hospitals waiting for provincial guidance to inform COVID-19 vaccination policy for staff

FILE - A nurse prepares to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy's Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. (AP / Frank Augstein, Pool)

Local hospitals are awaiting guidance from the province and Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) when it comes to protocols for staff who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine.

A new policy at the University Health Network (UHN) will require employees who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine or do not wish to disclose their vaccination status to test negative for the virus at least 48 hours before showing up for their shift.

“We are implementing this to keep patients and staff as safe as we possibly can,” UHN spokesperson Gillian Howard told CTV News Toronto in a statement. “The best protection for anyone is double vaccination which has been made available to all employees of UHN.”

As for local hospitals, Windsor Regional Hospital, Erie Shores Healthcare and the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance say they are waiting to hear from the Ontario Health Association and Ministry of Health regarding their recommendations for unvaccinated staff.

“We are still awaiting the Ontario government and Ontario Hospitals Association to complete and publish their mandates/recommendations, which they had a working group complete on this very issue,” WRH said in an update to its staff. “In the meantime all WRH staff, whether vaccinated or not, are required to wear surgical masks and face shields in both clinical and non-clinical areas.”

Erie Shores Healthcare told CTV Windsor it has taken part in discussions both internally and with other Ontario hospitals but is also awaiting further guidance from the OHA and Ministry of Health.

“We continue to encourage our staff to get vaccinated and we require standard COVID screening and temperature checks for all staff, patients, and visitors, prior to entering the building, in addition to, continued PPE practices (face shields, masks, etc.),” ESHC CEO Kristin Kennedy said in a statement.

A statement from Chatham-Kent Health Alliance president and CEO Lori Marshall said the hospital is also working with the OHA and hospital partners to develop a policy that supports vaccination for hospital workers.

“This is an essential step to protect healthcare workers, patients and the broader community against COVID-19.  At CKHA, all staff and physicians are asked to voluntarily report their vaccination status to the occupational health and safety department,” she said. “We continue to believe that the vaccination rate among our hospital staff and physicians remains high.”

While CKHA has not changed its policy, Marshall anticipates there may be some formal direction from the province which will inform its practice. Meanwhile, the hospital encourages staff to book a vaccine appointment.

- With files from CTV News Toronto.