Quebec stands by COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health workers amid fears of staffing shortages

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Quebec’s premier and its health minister on Wednesday defended their decision to implement compulsory vaccinations for health care workers, even as an opposition party and several unions called for them to avoid possible service breaks. urged to push back.

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As of last week, nearly 7,000 front-line health care workers remained without vaccinations and could face suspension without pay after the government’s October 15 deadline.

Jeff Begley, head of the federation of health and social service unions, said with less than two weeks before the deadline, most unions still have little details on the government’s plan to address the staff shortage.

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He said he understands officials want to wait until the last minute for up-to-date vaccination rates before unveiling the plan, but added that the lack of information is adding more stress to health workers who previously Have been burnt since a year. Half of fighting the pandemic.

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“I dare to hope that at a local level, employers understand how employees are at the end of their ropes,” he said in a phone interview.

Parti Québécois leader Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon held a news conference on Wednesday along with five other health care union heads, urging the government to delay the deadline to avoid a “generalized pause in services”.

Health Minister Christian Dubey said last week he had asked all regional health networks to submit a plan by October 1 on how to handle a potential shortage of personnel after October 15, but he had not yet publicized the details. .

On Wednesday, Plamondon and union chiefs slammed the government for its lack of transparency, and they called on the Legault government to explain how the province would avoid service disruptions in an already vulnerable and overwhelmed health care network.

Premier François Legault defended the mandatory vaccination plan on Wednesday during Question Hour, unbelievable that anyone would question the idea that health care workers treating patients need to be vaccinated.

“I think he is sending a very bad message with his question this morning, suggesting that it would be a mistake to have mandatory vaccinations in the health network on 15 October,” Legault said in response to a question from a health critic of the Parti Québécois. said in reply. .

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While Legault acknowledged there is a shortage of nurses in the province, he said there is currently “no break in services” and the plan would be carried out safely. He said only five out of 1,000 health facilities have suspended certain services, such as obstetrics, but he added that patients can get those services elsewhere.

When pressured Dubey to clarify his plan on how to manage the potential loss of personnel, he said the health network was working to reorganize the program in light of the deadline.

He also said the government had taken action to reduce staffing, pointing to a project announced earlier this week that would allow some ambulance paramedics to work in emergency rooms on Montreal’s south coast.

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“I think we are taking concrete action every day, Mr President, and we will continue to do so,” he said.

Begley said the vaccination rate among the workers he sees is high overall – more than 95 percent – but it is lower in some areas, such as the east end of Montreal.

He said that keeping services outright in areas with low rates will likely require either workers to do things they don’t usually do, or already overwhelmed employees to work even harder. Will say

“I find it improbable that there won’t be some places in Quebec where there won’t be a break in services,” Begley said, adding that he would like the government to push back the vaccination deadline so that workers have more time. both shots.

But while some union heads were expressing concerns over the vaccination deadline, a long-term care home owner said their fears had been put to rest.

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Paul Arbeck, head of a group representing private care homes and chairman of Groupe Arbeck, had previously expressed concern over the October 15 deadline, but said on Wednesday he had changed his tune after seeing how the mandate helped convince the remaining reluctant people. Employees have to get vaccinated.

In an email, he said his group still stood to lose “a few employees per facility” because of the mandate, but felt it had a solid contingency plan in place and was recruiting enough new people to keep services. will be able to do.

Meanwhile, Quebec on Wednesday reported 506 new cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 rose by three to 294, health officials said, while the number of people in intensive care remained stable at 90.

An additional 8,846 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were given on Tuesday, including 5,267 second doses, officials said.

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