Health Minister Christian Dubey said on Friday that Quebec is ready to vaccinate all health care workers in the province in mid-October, but some are suggesting more time is needed before the rules go into effect.
Dubey told reporters in Lewis, Ky., he is confident that managers at the health network will be able to come up with a contingency plan and reorganize services if many workers remain without vaccinations and are unable to work. He said there is a month left and urged the employees to get their vaccines.
“We are in a crisis situation, we are taking temporary measures, we are restructuring (services), it is temporary, but most importantly coming up with a solution for personnel and that is what we are committed to come. In the days to come,” he said.
15 deadline for a complete vaccination or exposure suspension for health care workers, about 20,000 workers – including 10,000 working with patients – still haven’t received their two shots.
As of September 14, the province’s Institute of Public Health says, 93.4 percent of health workers had received the first dose and 89.5 percent had been adequately vaccinated.
But some say more time is needed, especially since the provincial government has not published a decree outlining the details of the health measure and whether exemptions might exist.
The health department says the decree is expected soon, but a union leader said if the government was serious about the October 15 date, it should have published a decree two weeks earlier.
“It takes four weeks for people to take two doses, we have to give time to network and those who want to get two doses after seeing the decree, we have to give them that time,” says Jeff Begley, of the Association of Health and Social Services. The head of the federation said on Friday.
Most of their members have been vaccinated, and Begley said coercion is less effective than encouragement. “This is still our position, but if the government decides to go ahead with compulsory vaccination, we want to advise our members to know all the details,” he said.
Paul Arbeck, president of the provincial association for private long-term care homes, said about five percent of the roughly 5,000 workers who work in those homes have not been vaccinated.
“We had about 10 percent of our employees floating around who were reluctant to vaccinate for ethical reasons, cultural reasons, religious reasons, and we managed to bring that down to about five percent,” Arbeck said. “We’re working very hard to get hired, because we’ll be suspending without pay people who didn’t get vaccinated.”
Arbeck said he doesn’t think the government will back down, but he expects provincial officials to show some leniency for those who may have received the first dose a little late.
“It’s not just nurse and orderly. This is the kitchen staff, the cleaning staff. It affects every department,” Arbeck said, adding that they will formally request an extension on Monday. He said that over time the number of unvaccinated workers could be further cut.
Dubey acknowledged there were some risks in making vaccination mandatory, but added that it is to protect both patients and health workers, who he says are uncomfortable working with unvaccinated colleagues.
On Friday, Quebec reported 837 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Hospitalizations rose from six to 262, an increase of eight, with 95 patients listed in intensive care, the Health Department said. Dubey said the new intensive care cases are all among people who have not been vaccinated.
Health officials said 21,813 doses of the vaccine have been given in the past 24 hours, including more than 7,200 in the first dose. According to the province’s Institute of Public Health, 88.7 percent of Quebecers 12 and older have received at least one dose and 83.9 percent have been adequately vaccinated.
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