Windsor hospitals fire 87, ten more suspended in Leamington

BlackburnNews.com file photo of Windsor Regional Hospital's Metropolitan Campus, July 16, 2015. (Photo by Jason Viau)

The help wanted sign is out at Windsor Regional Hospital and Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare.

Windsor Regional Hospital terminated the employment of 57 workers and six professional staff at 12:01 a.m. Thursday for not complying with its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.

At Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, 24 employees were let go. The hospital said another five workers have exemptions and will have to undergo regular testing for the virus.

Windsor Regional Hospital’s CEO is making no apologies for the move. Dave Musyj said 98.5 per cent of the organization’s staff are now at least partially vaccinated.

“That’s the last conversation I want to have again, and I hope I never have it again, is with a family, explaining to them that their loved one came into the hospital on non-COVID-related matter, and then catch COVID,” he said.

Ninety-eight per cent of staff at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare are compliant. CEO Janice Kaffer is also impentinent.

“Our patients and their loved ones expect us to do everything we can to keep them safe and restore their quality of life,” she said. “While this may be difficult for those who have decided not to become vaccinated, our patients don’t have a choice in the health event they are experiencing. For us, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare is their place to regain that health, and we need to be sure we are doing all we can to protect it.”

Erie Shores Healthcare won’t be firing anyone for at least another week and a half. The deadline for its staff to disclose their vaccination status was on Monday. As of Thursday, only ten staff members were still unvaccinated. Those workers are on a two-week unpaid leave of absence. After that, they too could join their colleagues from Windsor on the unemployment line.

Back at Windsor Regional, Chief of Staff Doctor Wassim Saad and Chief of Nursing Staff Karen Riddell reassured the public despite the firings, the quality of care at their hospital will not suffer.

“You have to remember that there is some full-time staff that did not follow through with the policy, and we’ll have some part-time staff internally that will move up into those positions,” added Musyj.

He said the hospital has an attrition rate of up to ten percent in a year, and it has already been operating for two weeks with 140 staff members on leave.

“We are going to do fine,” he said.

The six professional employees included some doctors. That classification also includes nurse practitioners, midwives, and dentists.

In a tweet on Thursday, the Canadian Union of Public Employees announced 18 paramedics at Essex Windsor EMS were off work.

“Laying off healthcare workers in a pandemic during already established staffing shortages is neither appropriate or responsible,” the union tweeted.

For Musyj, the response is simple.

“To get into a restaurant, you need to be fully vaccinated. To go on a plane or a train, you need to be fully vaccinated. To work for a municipality and the federal government, you need to be fully vaccinated. But someone is going to debate the fact that coming into a hospital and coming into contact with immune compromised patients and high-risk individuals, you don’t need to be fully vaccinated?  That debate doesn’t cut it,” said Musyj.