Several of Toronto’s major hospitals will require their staff to be inoculated against COVID-19.
On August 19, University Health Network (UHN) and the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) announced mandatory vaccination policies for their respective employees.
UHN encompasses Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.
In an email sent to staff, obtained by Daily Hive, Dr. Kevin Smith, president and CEO of UHN, wrote that all employees would be required to provide proof of vaccination.
Come fall, the hospital network will introduce a “full mandate for vaccination” for all team members, except for those who have a medical exemption.
“The expectation is that everyone at UHN will be double vaccinated by October 8,” Gillian Howard, vice-president of public affairs and communications at UHN, told Daily Hive.
COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory for all new UHN employees as well, Smith said.
The hospital network is considering extending the policy to “all individuals” that visit its facilities, such as students, contractors, volunteers, and essential care providers.
If an employee decides that they cannot be vaccinated, they will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence. This would be UHN’s “last choice,” Smith wrote.
“These changes are about the safety and well-being of patients and the members of TeamUHN,” Smith said.
“We want to do everything possible to ensure that we reduce the possibility of COVID-19 entering the hospital and infecting patients and staff. The Delta variant is highly contagious, and we know that vaccination is the best way of protecting everyone.”
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In a statement, SickKids said that its mandatory vaccination policy would apply to staff, volunteers, learners, and contractors.
Those with a documented medical or human rights exemption will be excused from the policy, which will take effect on September 7.
SickKids said the decision to mandate vaccines for its employees was made following a risk assessment, including its patient’s “unique vulnerabilities.”
The majority of SickKids’ patients and clients are under the age of 12 and are therefore ineligible for vaccination themselves.
SickKids’ statement was made alongside the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa and Toronto’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.
Dr. Ronald Cohn, the president and CEO of SickKids, said the policy adds an “important and powerful” layer of protection for patients, families, and staff.
“We are united in our belief that immunization against COVID-19 is an individual and societal responsibility,” Cohn said.
“Implementing vaccine mandate policies for our staff was not our first choice, nor was it an easy choice to make, but as health-care institutions dedicated to the health of children, we feel it is the right thing to do.”