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Ontario's Registered Nurses not pleased with Doug Ford's 'lack of courage' on vaccine mandate

Nurses' group said Premier Ford is afraid to do what is right for the province
Doug Ford
Doug Ford / The Canadian Press

Ontario's Registered Nurses Association (RNAO) said it is "deeply disappointed" that Premier Doug Ford is backing off on having a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all professional health care workers.

In a statement released Nov. 3, the premier said it was a "complex issue" and his decision is that a mandate could lead to staff shortages in hospitals. Ford told Toronto reporters that he would leave the decision up to individual hospitals.

It was earlier this week that Health Sciences North (HSN) in Sudbury, the largest hospital in Northern Ontario, announced that all its professional health care staff would need to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 7, with a few exceptions, or they would face termination.

The RNAO accused Ford of being afraid to do what is right for the province.

"This decision by Premier Ford is a disgrace and shows a lack of courage to do what's right for Ontario's patients and workers. To not implement a province-wide vaccination policy for all health-care workers puts the burden unfairly on employers and imposes a risk of infection on Ontarians receiving health services," said RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun. 

"The majority of hospital CEOs have already weighed in and provided their support for mandatory vaccination for health-care workers. To not act immediately and go against the evidence is irresponsible," Grinspun continued.

RNAO also said the premier's decision is an example of mismanagement. The nurses group referred to Ford's own long-term care minister, Rod Phillips, who announced on Oct. 1 that vaccinations for all nursing home staff would be required by Nov. 15. 

"The premier supported this call, as did RNAO," said Grinspun. She added that RNAO has been calling for mandatory vaccinations for all health-care workers since July. 

Grinspun said it was upsetting that several large Ontario hospitals have already announced vaccine mandates but the premier would not endorse the move with a province-wide law.

RNAO also stated that the real reason nurses and other health care workers are leaving hospital jobs is because of Bill 124, which gives employers the right to limit wage increases as well as to amend certain working conditions that were won through fair collective bargaining.

Nurses and other health care workers at HSN in Sudbury have been told that the previous vaccination policy was changed last week.

"HSN is implementing a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for all employees (including employees for contracted services), credentialed professional staff, active volunteers (including Board members) and learners. This direction was unanimously approved on October 27th by the HSN Board of Directors, upon recommendation from the CEO and the Chief of Staff, and supported by the Senior Leadership Committee, Medical Advisory Committee and our COVID-19 Incident Command team," said a statement released from the hospital.