Dozens of unvaccinated WRH employees on unpaid leave

Windsor Regional Hospital Ouellette campus. Blackburn News file photo.

The deadline for Windsor Regional Hospital employees to be vaccinated from COVID-19 has passed.

Hospital officials provided an update during a virtual media conference Wednesday afternoon. As of the deadline of midnight Tuesday, about 140 employees were not in compliance with the deadline and are now on a two-week unpaid leave of absence.

WRH said a total of 97 per cent of its employees and clinical staff had followed the policy, which required employees to either have begun the vaccination process or provide a certified medical exemption.

Hospital CEO David Musyj said if these employees do not show compliance by October 7, they’ll need to start looking for another job.

“Vaccines plus public health measures are the proven ways through this pandemic,” said Musyj. “We can’t lead by example if our own staff are not fully vaccinated.”

The hospital remains optimistic that it won’t have to resort to widespread terminations. Chief of Staff Doctor Wassim Saad said he understands that some people are hesitant to be vaccinated for a variety of reasons. He told those employees that his door is always open.

“The offer is still available for people to contact me or anyone else in the organization to go through questions that they have if they have reservations about the vaccine from a medical perspective,” said Saad. “But you’re still going to have people who won’t be convinced or don’t want to be convinced.”

Chief Nursing Officer Karen Riddell said patients and visitors won’t see any difference in the level of service they get at either of the hospital’s campuses, as contingency plans were put in place to cover for those put on leave.

“What we’ve been able to do is make up for those staff absences,” said Riddell. “We are hopeful that a large number of those staff will choose to get vaccinated before the deadline of October 7th.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported that 75.5 per cent of residents 12 and older have been fully vaccinated, while 82.1 per cent have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

The hospital has roughly 4,000 employees. Those placed on leave who have begun the vaccination process will be allowed to contact the hospital to start reinstatement.