Guelph General Hospital has issued suspension notices to 31 staff members on Tuesday for failing to comply with the hospitals’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Those staff will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence starting Wednesday morning.
All employees, Professional Staff, volunteers, and contractors were told they would be required to receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 12 or they would be placed on an unpaid leave of absence.
Hospital spokesperson Perry Hagerman said on Friday that currently 30 staff were listed as yet to comply with the vaccine mandate, however, on Tuesday Karen Suk-Patrick, the vice-president of people and support services said the number was actually 31.
Due to a clerical error, the number increased as one person was miscounted.
Those placed on leave represent less than 2 per cent of the hospital’s 1,653 staff members.
While on leave, the hospital will continue to provide support and education on the vaccine to those who are not in compliance with the vaccine mandate.
“Ultimately, our policy is you have to be vaccinated to work here, and all new staff that we hire will have to be vaccinated to work here, so yes, those people who choose not to be vaccinated will no longer have employment,” said Suk-Patrick.
Those not in compliance will be supported through the hospital with education and resources should they decide to change their mind before the deadline on Nov. 9.
“That period between today and Nov. 9 is to get all staff vaccinated. That is our goal here, and we do not want to lose any staff,” said Suk-Patrick. “I can’t stress that enough. It’s to provide staff with an opportunity to maybe rethink their decisions and maybe get vaccinated.”
The suspensions come as the hospital is currently hiring roughly 40 positions ranging from nurses to housekeepers.
The 31 staff members placed on leave Tuesday are not counted in the positions the hospital is currently looking to fill, however, those positions will become available if the staff remain in non-compliance and are ultimately terminated.
“Most of the hospitals in Ontario are dealing with staffing challenges right now, almost all hospitals are operating more beds and trying to get back to pre-pandemic levels and have more beds, so we are all looking for more staff,” said Suk-Patrick. “It’s not just related to the vaccine policy, it’s just what’s happening across the province right now.”
Hagerman said the staff are not concentrated in any particular area and are scattered across the organization, and in order to protect their privacy the hospital won’t be sharing what they do or where in the hospital they work.
Suk-Patrick echoed this statement, saying the hospital will not face any closures or shutdowns with the 31 staff members taking the leave of absence.
Department directors within the hospital are aware of which staff members are not in compliance with the mandate and have made interim plans should those staff members elect to not receive the vaccine by the next deadline.
“I was to stress to the community that the hospital is still safe to come to, we still have enough staff to take care of them if they’re sick and, they (patients) should come to the hospital,” said Suk-Patrick. “We are here for them and we are doing everything we can to keep people safe “