WRH reveals COVID-19 vaccination policy for staff and volunteers

Windsor Regional Hospital has revealed a new COVID-19 vaccination policy that will take effect for all staff next month.

A memo sent to staff on Tuesday said the policy will be effective Sept. 7 for anyone who works or volunteers at the hospital.

“We recognize the importance of immunization to reduce the risk of serious infection and transmission of infection to co-workers, patients and anyone visiting our facilities,” said the memo.

All staff are being asked to declare their vaccination status. There are four responses that can be declared:

  •  1. I have received at least one dose of the vaccine and will receive a second dose when offered or when able to do so, based on WRH and/or provincial criteria (also if you have had both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine select this one).
  •  2. I am unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons. (Note: Documentation will be required to be
  •  submitted to Health Services).
  •  3. I have chosen not to be vaccinated at this time.
  •  4. I prefer not to provide WRH with my vaccination status.

All staff in categories 2, 3, and 4 arriving on WRH premises for any work or education related activities will be required to participate in the self-administered COVID-19 testing program.

They will be required to be asymptomatic and have completed a negative test PRIOR to entering the worksite. Staff are to conduct a rapid swab test twice per week – Sunday and Wednesday before noon - regardless of the timing of their next shift. (Testing kits will be provided by WRH).

“You have patients coming into the hospital, they expect it to be a safe environment. The best way to make it a safe environment is to make sure everyone involved in healthcare is either vaccinated or test themselves regularly,” said WRH chief of staff Dr. Wassim Saad.

WRH says immediately, they are asking all employees, affiliates, professional staff and students to access a password-protected link and disclose what category above applies to their situation. The hospital says it is a secure site and only linked to staff health office.

Once they have the answer they will arrange a date and time staff that need to participate in the self-administered COVID-19 testing program can pick-up their testing kits.

“We are not forcing anyone to do anything that is outside of their comfort zone,” Dr. Saad said. “Some people legitimately cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons and we are okay with that, but if you’re going to come into the hospital and work at the hospital and look after patients, we’re asking that you test yourself twice a week and ensure that you are continually negative for COVID and you don’t unwillingly and unknowingly pass it on to a patient.”

Staff who test positive on the rapid test must contact Employee Health and arrange for a confirmatory diagnostic PCR test at an Assessment Centre. They will need to self-isolate at home pending the result of the confirmatory test.

Managers/medical affairs will receive/review compliance reports for follow-up. Compliance reports will verify that the COVID-19 program has been completed, but they will not provide information related to with which component of the program staff have complied.

WRH said failure to comply with the COVID-19 program may result in discipline up to, and including, termination of employment and revocation of privileges.

“This applies to hospital staff and physicians,” Saad said. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask them to either show us their evidence vaccine or test themselves regularly. But if they insist on not doing either of those and not following the policy they could potentially put patients at risk or other visitors to our hospital at risk and we just can’t have that. I hope it never gets to that point with anyone that works at the hospital but if it does get to that point then we have a process in a mechanism to go through with anyone that does not follow the policy.”

CTV News Windsor reached out to the Ontario Nurses Association, but they were not available to provide a comment on the new policy Wednesday.

The hospital will be holding a “Virtual Town Hall” with all WRH staff on Thursday Aug. 5, 2021 at noon.

About 90 per cent of WRH staff are already vaccinated.

- With files from CTV Windsor's Alana Hadadean.