Healthcare workers at Kingston’s hospitals will have to complete one of three options regarding COVID-19 vaccinations by the end of July 2021, according to Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC).
Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health reported last week that over 80 per cent of those over the age of 12 have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and over 65 per cent of those in the same age group have received their second dose of vaccine. That information, coupled with information regarding the most recent COVID-19 outbreak in the region – which took place at KHSC’s Kingston General Hospital (KGH) site on the Davies 5 unit, involved both patients and staff at the hospital, and resulted in the death of two patients – has prompted many questions from local residents about the per centage of those vaccinated against COVID-19 working in local hospitals.
According to KHSC, that information is not yet available. However, the organization has “implemented a policy” for its healthcare workers, which, upon completion at the end of the month, should enable it to provide data on the per centage of those healthcare workers who are vaccinated.
“We strongly encourage our health-care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, as it is an effective way to reduce transmission and protect staff, patients and their families from serious illness,” said Elizabeth Bardon, Incident Commander for KHSC.
Bardon explained the policy KHSC has put in place regarding the COVID-19 vaccination status of its healthcare workers.
“Similar to the COVID-19 immunization policies mandated by the Province for long-term care homes in Ontario, Kingston Health Sciences Centre has implemented a policy for its health-care workers that requires staff to do one of the following by July 30: provide proof of vaccination, provide a documented medical reason for not being vaccinated, or complete an education module about the benefits of vaccination and the risks of being unvaccinated,” she said.
This means that KHSC is not mandating that all healthcare workers be vaccinated against COVID-19, which is not uncommon among hospital and healthcare networks across the province and country at this time. However, multiple countries have instituted mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for all healthcare workers, and both the Ontario Medical Association and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario have publicly called for mandated vaccinations for healthcare workers across the province. According to Dr. Hugh Guan, Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health, in June of 2021 across Ontario, of those who were not at all vaccinated against COVID-19 contracted the virus at a rate 4.7 times higher than that of those who were fully vaccinated. Those who were partially vaccinated contracted COVID-19 at a rate 3.4 times higher than those who were fully vaccinated.
Bardon said that KHSC has “additional steps in place for those who are not yet fully vaccinated related to screening and personal protective equipment, and are exploring other options to provide the safest possible experience for our patients and team.”
And, while the information KHSC collects should give a better sense of how many of its healthcare workers are vaccinated, that information may not include the vaccination status of all healthcare workers for legal reasons.
“We will have a much better sense of our vaccination rates by early August once all of the information that has come in has been inputted. It’s important to note that vaccination status is legally classified as personal health information and we must have explicit consent from employees to gather this information – it is not automatically available to us,” Bardon explained.
“We anticipate the rate to be 80 per cent or higher as most staff have been very enthusiastic about getting their vaccines.”
Kingstonist will continue to follow up on this matter with KHSC, and will provide an update once the aforementioned information is made available.
KHSC consists of Hotel Dieu Hospital, Kingston General Hospital, and the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario, as well as two research institutes, and is affiliated with Queen’s University.