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Over 50 temporarily-suspended KHSC staff now back to work

Kingston General Hospital, a KHSC site. Photo by Lucas Mulder.

Of 136 KHSC staff who were put on leave last week for failing to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19, over 40 per cent have now provided proof of vaccination or a valid exemption and will be welcomed back to work following a negative COVID-19 antigen test, said Elizabeth Bardon, Vice-President and COVID Incident Commander at KHSC.

“As part of KHSC’s COVID-19 immunization policy, all KHSC staff, physicians and learners were required to provide proof of having received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or a documented medical reason for not being vaccinated by Wednesday, September 22,” said Bardon.

As of that date, 136 KHSC employees were placed on a two-week unpaid leave for non-compliance with the policy. As of Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, 57 of those employees have now provided either proof of vaccination or a valid exemption.

Of the 79 individuals remaining on administrative leave:

  • None are doctors
  • 44 are nurses (RN or RPN)
    • nine full-time
    • 13 part-time
    • 22 casual
  • 17 are in other clinical/patient care roles (i.e. non-nurse roles in the hospital that provide patient care – however, this does not include doctors)
    • Four full-time
    • 11 part-time
    • Two casual
  • 18 are in non-patient care roles

According to KHSC, these individuals will remain on unpaid administrative leave and, following their two-week leave, will face further disciplinary action, up to and including termination of their employment.

While casual employees are counted in these figures, KSHC said those individuals working in casual positions are typically called in if a shift vacancy cannot be filled by regular part-time and full-time staff, and casual employees often go long periods of time between shifts at KHSC, often working very few hours in total.

In addition, there are currently more than 1,950 nurses employed at KHSC.

“We anticipate that shift vacancies will be able to be filled by other nurses within the organization. We do not believe this will have a significant impact on KHSC’s ability to continue to deliver effective and safe patient care,” KHSC said.

“As an organization, we strongly believe that vaccination is the top preventive strategy against COVID-19, in conjunction with screening, wearing personal protective equipment such as masks, and physical distancing.”

Investigation following a COVID-19 outbreak this summer determined that unvaccinated staff played a significant role in the spread of infections within the hospital, which resulted in several inpatients acquiring COVID-19.

“As health-care providers, we have an ethical and professional obligation to take all necessary steps to keep our patients, families and each other safe from COVID-19,” KHSC said in a statement.

In total, KHSC employs more than 5,900 staff across KGH and Hotel Dieu sites, the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario, and multiple satellite offices in Kingston and across Southeastern Ontario.

To date, 98.6 per cent of KHSC staff have received either their first or second dose, with 95 per cent having received both doses.

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