Canmore, Alta. – Amid the fourth wave, hospitals in Canada are lifting all stops to prevent further outbreaks of COVID-19.
As most hospitals in the country moved to implement mandatory vaccine policies for staff, increasing numbers have turned their attention to visitors and occasional care workers, requiring them to enter hospital facilities. Proof of vaccination needs to be shown before being allowed.
It’s a move that has stirred up another pandemic-era debate for Canadians and ethicists alike, especially given the delicate and sometimes life-changing business that happens behind hospital doors.
“I think of all the places where we need to show evidence of vaccination, this is one of them,” Elizabeth Barden, COVID incident commander at Kingston Health Sciences Center in Ontario, told Granthshala National News.
“The people coming to the hospital are not coming of their own accord, they are very sick and right now, our patients are sicker than ever… with little else while they are here.”
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From 22 October, Kingston Health Sciences Center will require that all registered family visitors visiting inpatients be fully vaccinated and show proof of vaccination before entering hospital.
The hospital joins several other Greater Toronto Area health centers, including the University Health Network (UHN) and Quebec’s hospitals, in implementing these new regulations.
In BC, visitor vaccination requirements adopted in long-term care homes for the first time will be expanded to acute care and community care visitors on October 26. Meanwhile in Alberta, where hospitals were hit hard by the fourth wave of the virus, calls for the adoption of a similar policy are growing louder.
From an epidemiological standpoint, ethicists say the policy is in line with hospitals’ main priority: keeping patients safe.
But it becomes difficult to look at the subject from a compassionate point of view.
“I have to admit, from an ethical and humanitarian point of view, this is potentially the most difficult context in which we need vaccine proof because we are more vulnerable when we are in the hospital of a loved one? Professor of Bioethics at the University of Montreal “When do we need encouragement or desperation for a loved one,” Verdit Ravitsky told Granthshala National News.
“We have to keep in mind how sensitive this need is as it touches families in their most difficult moments, in their most vulnerable situations.”
Ravitsky notes that hospitals should make exemptions for people who are medically unable to receive the vaccine, but adds that there should be compassionate exemptions in certain circumstances.
“For example, you’re going with someone to the ER and they need help… you’re going with your child,” she said. “If you are with a woman in labor, if you are with someone who is actively dying, at the end of their life, or if you are an essential visitor, that means you Providing physical care for
At the same time, Ravitsky agrees that hospitals should limit admission to people who do not like those very limited circumstances and require additional security measures from those visitors if exemptions are approved, such as that rapid testing, providing protective equipment, and limiting the amount of time spent with patients.
“Even if it only lasts a few weeks or months, we need to be aware of human needs and the tragic nature of certain situations and enough of the nuances in the way we apply this idea. There has to be space,” Ravitsky explained.
Hospitals such as Kingston Health Sciences say they have provided some room for unvaccinated visitors by announcing these policies in advance and say, overall, the response has been helpful so far.
“Our goal during the pandemic has really been to balance safety and compassion and we’ve worked really hard to do that,” Barden said.
“We don’t want to go back. We want to remain in a position to open up cautiously and gradually, rather than having to shut down because of an outbreak where we’re actually taking more people out of the hospital.” .