Vaccination policies in Long Term Care Homes (LTC)  in West Nipissing have been set and the deadline for staff to be vaccinated is nearing.

Au Château took a proactive approach last month when they implemented their own policy. It calls for staff to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 29.

“By Sept. 29, the staff had to declare their status regarding vaccination,” says Jacques Dupuis, Au Château’s Administrator. “Whether they were going to take the first dose by Sept. 29, or they had a medical reason, requesting one of the human rights in terms of religious exemptions, or they’re not going to take the vaccine. We wanted to know what their intentions were. But the bottom line of the policy is that staff needs to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 29 or they will be home, suspended without pay.”

Dupuis says the home has “very high rates of vaccination”.

“Prior to implementing the policy, we were somewhere around 82%. At the time of the policy and the declaration, I can tell you there was about 30 or so employees that had not been vaccinated at all at that point in time,” says Dupuis. “Of the 30 or so, 20 have taken their first dose and honoured the policy. Of the 10 or so that remain, there’s a few of them on sick leave and have not provided their intention (in terms of vaccination) and won’t do so until they return, but there is about five that have refused the vaccine altogether.”

Dupuis says with PCR testing no longer being an option, staff will be off without pay until they decide to be vaccinated and return.

“If their choice is to not be vaccinated and go elsewhere, we will respect their choice,” he adds.

Dupuis says he doesn’t like losing anyone due to the policy change.

“Some of them I believe they’re making the wrong decision. But that’s just my personal opinion. We don’t like to lose any of them. In essence, the very few we are going to lose is not going to have any impact on our operation in terms of being short. Although we are in an industry that is in high demand for staff, and are still looking for staff to join us in many of the disciplines, this is certainly not going to have an overwhelming negative impact to us,” he says.

Dupuis says staff has been given all the tools, and information to be fully vaccinated.

“We’ve actually made it easy for staff. We had vaccination on-site here for both the first shot, second shot. Those who decided not to get their first shot, we helped them out the second time and the third time. We always inform staff through communication about mobile vaccination, about pharmacies and so on so forth. […] Some of them waited to the last minute for policy to be in place and decided they had to take it to maintain their job, and a few of them are still remaining outstanding. That’s understandable, in any organization you’ll have a small sample population that are against vaccination,” says Dupuis.

Dupuis says every organization is representative of what’s happening in the community.

“If the community is 5-10% unvaccinated, you gotta expect the same in the organization. What’s a bit disappointing is that in a health organization like ours, in LTC, where we deal with frail elderlies, one would expect that the vaccination rate would be significantly higher than the general population,” says Dupuis.

At WNGH, the hospital implemented the vaccination policy on October 1st, after changes were made to the province’s Long-Term Care Homes Act.

“[The province] provided directives that all staff in LTC must be vaccinated by November 15, 2021,” said Cynthia Desormiers, WNGH CEO. “As a result, we have been working with our unvaccinated [LTC staff] to provide them with information related to this directive and assist them in getting vaccinated. We are working with the NBPSDHU to get the vaccine bus on-site for hospital workers, patients and community members to get their 1st shot or their 2nd shot. We are hopeful that they will be on-site as early as [this] week.”

Desormiers says as a result of the new directive, unvaccinated LTC staff will need to get their 1st COVID-19 vaccine by October 18, 2021, and their 2nd vaccine by November 14, 2021, and provide proof of vaccination by November 15, 2021.

“As of November 15, 2021, all unvaccinated staff who work in our LTC unit will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence. If staff get vaccinated after this date, they can return to work once they have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. As of October 4, 2021, our vaccine rate was 86.8% and we are confident it will be higher by the November 15, 2021 deadline,” she finished.