The Quebec government says it is confident that a “large majority” of healthcare workers will comply with the province’s mandatory covid vaccination policy, despite the fact that tens of thousands remain unvaccinated.
The Ministry of Health said in a statement on Wednesday that approximately 30,000 staff in the private health system and 25,800 in the public system are still unvaccinated.
In the public sector, 92% of workers have received one dose, and 88% have received two. The Health Ministry did not provide a breakdown for private-sector workers.
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According to the statement, an additional 1% of workers — or more than 3,000 people — have sought the first dose since hearings on mandatory vaccinations were held at the National Assembly in late August.
“We are confident that a large majority of employees will make an appointment to be adequately protected,” said Noémie Vanheuverzwijn, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry.
“It is the responsibility of the government to take all necessary measures to protect the network’s capacity for essential care.”
Premier François Legault announced the mandatory vaccination policy on Tuesday, stating that anyone who has not been adequately vaccinated by October 15 will be suspended without pay.
The policy is the province’s latest attempt to tame COVID-19 without imposing additional restrictions on the public, and it was announced just over a week after the vaccine passport was implemented.
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Given the risk of an outbreak among vulnerable patients, public health experts have long advocated for mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers.
Quebec healthcare Unions are concerned that staffing shortages will worsen.
Unions representing healthcare workers said Wednesday that while they recognize the importance of vaccines in combating the pandemic, they are concerned that making them mandatory will exacerbate chronic staffing shortages.
“If you don’t plan and send people home, the burden will fall on those who remain,” said Josée Fréchette, vice-president of a union that represents the majority of Quebec’s health professionals and technicians.
Nancy Hogan, another union president in Quebec City, said the city’s university hospital network is in crisis.
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“We’re missing some people. We’re working extra hours. Every day, we go through a contingency plan — fewer nurses, more patients, and so on “She stated. “We see departures every day, workers quitting because they are under pressure and overworked.”
Cédric Thivierge, a nurse in Thetford Mines, northeast of Montreal, is among those who oppose mandatory vaccination.
Thivierge, who has been with the company since 2012, has stated that he is not ready to be vaccinated.
“I’m going to leave my colleagues, my team, and my family during this difficult time,” he explained. “I’ll have the impression that I’m abandoning them.”
Legault is looking for solutions.
Legault acknowledged on Tuesday that the province’s shortage of nurses and other healthcare workers remains a major challenge as the province faces a fourth wave of the pandemic.
While hospitalizations may not be as high as they were early in the pandemic, they are already straining the system due to a lack of personnel, according to Legault.
He stated that the government is attempting to find ways to entice people who have left the profession to return by potentially introducing incentives such as higher pay and better working conditions.
He also urged federal leaders to make increasing health-care transfers a top priority in the upcoming election campaign.