Ford says he is 'still waiting for answers' from hospital CEOs on vaccine mandate
TORONTO -- Premier Doug Ford says that he is “still waiting for answers” from hospital administrators about the potential staffing impacts that could arise from introducing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all health-care workers.
The Progressive Conservative government has been facing increasing pressure to make vaccination mandatory for all health-care workers, including from the group of scientists that advises it on the pandemic.
But Ford has so far refused to make a decision on the matter, citing concerns about the need to terminate “tens of thousands” of employees at a time when hospitals are still under immense strain.
On Monday Health Minister Christine Elliot promised an announcement “by the end of the week,” but her office quickly corrected her statement and said no decision was coming.
The about face came after Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca accused Ford of partaking in a “dithering dance” on vaccine mandates.
Asked about the apparent indecision during a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, Ford seemed to suggest that the delay is actually due to a lack of information being provided by hospital administrators but he again offered no timeline for when a decision could be made.
On Oct. 15 Ford wrote a range of stakeholders, including every Ontario hospital CEO, to solicit their input about a potential vaccine mandate for health-care workers and ask for specific details around how such a policy might affect staffing levels at their hospitals. The stakeholders were given until Oct. 19 to reply.
“I am still waiting for answers to be frank to you,” Ford said on Tuesday when asked about the consultation process. ”I think the world of all the hospital CEOs and everything because they have done an incredible job but we need an answer. You can’t manage anything unless you measure it and if they aren’t giving me the numbers to measure it makes things a lot more challenging.”
The Ontario Hospital Association has been calling for a vaccine mandate for health-care workers since July and reiterated their support in a reply to Ford’s letter last week.
The Ontario Science Advisory Table has also come out in favour of such a policy, calling it an “evidence-based policy that protects Ontarians.”
Ford, however, has continued to express concern about mandating vaccines for all health-care workers and has suggested that such a policy could have a disproportionate impact on hospital operations in rural communities with lower vaccination rates.
“Hopefully they are listening,” he said of hospital CEOs on Tuesday. “Let’s get a response to the letter, accurate responses with exactly the number of people you figure (will be impacted). And that includes the custodians. You can’t run a hospital if the hospital is not clean, you can’t run a hospital if the mechanics aren’t there and you sure can’t run a hospital without the nurses and docs. So folks please respond to the letter if you could.”
While the Ontario government continues to allow unvaccinated health-care workers to participate in a rapid testing program, about 70 per cent of hospitals are believed to have implemented stricter policies.
Last week, The Hospital for Sick Children announced that it was putting 147 employees on unpaid leave for not complying with their vaccine mandate. The University Health Network also indicated that it planned to terminate about one per cent of its workforce for failing to comply with a similar policy.