After weeks of insisting that Quebec would go ahead and impose a vaccination mandate on health care workers and suspend those who disagreed free of charge, the provincial health minister, Christian Dub, withdrew and is now giving them a extra months to get adequately vaccinated.
Health care workers now have until November 15 to get the necessary shots. The initial deadline was this Friday.
Currently, 93 percent of Quebec health care workers are fully vaccinated, but that still leaves nearly 22,000 facing suspension because they have only had a single dose or are unvaccinated. Dub said the health system will not be able to afford the loss of so many staff.
He said the decision to extend the vaccination deadline for healthcare workers was “difficult”, but one that was needed to avoid “hitting a wall” when it came to providing healthcare services to Quebecers.
“I have a responsibility to protect the Quebecers’ healthcare network,” Dub told a news conference Wednesday. “The risk is very high now and it would be irresponsible to roll the dice with the health of the Quebecers.”
LOOK | Dub defends deadline postponement:
Meanwhile, starting Monday, staff who are not adequately vaccinated will need to undergo a minimum of three COVID-19 screening tests per week. This measure was already in force in the public network, but will also apply to private facilities.
Nurses who are not adequately vaccinated by Nov. 15 will not be eligible for financial rewards of up to $ 18,000 as part of Quebec’s plan to attract and retain nursing staff to fix the staffing crisis in the care network health. They will only receive their rewards if they are vaccinated twice within the next 30 days.
All new hires in the health network will need to be adequately vaccinated, Dub added.
“This decision can be very frustrating for healthcare workers who are already vaccinated. It can also be frustrating, shocking, for network users who want a secure environment,” Dub said.
“We want to apply compulsory vaccinations to healthcare workers, but not at the expense of our ability to treat citizens.”
Dub’s tones were significantly different from the one he had about 24 hours ago, when he doubled in on Friday’s deadline, saying there would be “no change” in the government’s plan to implement the mandatory vaccine mandate. .
“The best solution,” says Dub
During Wednesday’s press conference, together with the Deputy Minister of Health of Quebec, Dr. Lucie Opatrny, Dubsaid “in the circumstances, extending the 30-day deadline is the best solution to ensure the continuity of services and not to add more pressure to our network, and more particularly to its staff.”
Opatrny said that if Friday’s deadline were to be met, there would be a “significant reduction” in healthcare in Quebec. Thirty-five of the province’s 470 operating rooms and about 600 hospital beds in the province were to be closed.
As it is, 80 operating rooms have already been closed due to lack of staff. Some long-term care homes (CHSLDs) would also have been forced to close beds, she said.
Opatrny added that the number of unvaccinated workers is not evenly distributed throughout the province and across departments, noting an example where a laboratory had four of the six unvaccinated technicians. She said workers should have been relocated to cope with the loss of workers in critical care services.
Several professional orders representing health care workers, including provincial orders of nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, licensed practitioners, and college physicians, had said they wouldsuspend licensesof members who have not been adequately vaccinated against COVID-19 by Friday.
Dubsuggested on Wednesday those deadlines will also be extended to give employees a few more weeks to be vaccinated before their licenses are suspended.
Dub had a message for unvaccinated healthcare workers before the new deadline: “I hope you will take advantage of this vacation period to get vaccinated.
“Do it for yourself and your loved ones, but also for your colleagues who need you.”
The unions applaud the decision
Fdration interprofessionnelle de la sant duQubec (FIQ), the largest nurses’ union in the province, said it was pleased with the postponement but said there were still problems to be resolved.
“We are avoiding chaos in the short term, but we are not out of the forest. The network remains extremely fragile,” said Isabelle Groulx, a respiratory therapist and vice president of FIQ, which represents 76,000 nurses.
FIQ is seeking strong leadership from the province, including concrete initiatives that would ban forced overtime use, which the union has long said is the main reason nurses are leaving the public sector in the group.
TheFdrationde laSantduQubec (FSQ-CSQ), which represents more than 5,000 nurses, respiratory therapists and nursing assistants, said Quebec made the “responsible decision” on Wednesday.
For weeks, unions have expressed concern about vaccinated workers in the system who would be forced to cope with the excessive workload left by suspended workers.
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