Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday November 5, 2021
Ontario and Quebec bow to anti-vax hospital workers
Chalk up two big points for the nation’s anti-vax brigade. And two ridiculous own-goals by the governments of Ontario and Quebec.
In a dispiriting display of spinelessness, both provinces decided Wednesday against requiring their health care workers to do the morally right and medically necessary thing — and be vaccinated against COVID-19. While Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced he would not proceed with a vaccination mandate, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube actually scrapped a vaccination edict already in place.
Both decisions will worry and, yes, endanger patients. They won’t know whether the person treating them has had the jab and whether, if unvaccinated, that individual might put them at heightened risk of catching COVID-19. Both decisions also do a profound disservice to the overwhelming majority of health care workers who’ve acted responsibly by taking their jab. They should have the right to work in the safest environment possible, something only possible after mass vaccinations.
So why did it come to this? In both provinces, the decisions were motivated by the unsubstantiated fear that vast numbers of hospital workers would quit rather than be vaccinated. Ford cited “the potential departure of tens of thousands of health-care workers” if his government mandated vaccinations instead of leaving the decision to individual hospitals and health organizations, many of which have imposed their own vaccine requirements.
But the Ontario Hospital Association and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario both pleaded with the premier to set down a consistent approach across the entire provincial health care system. Instead, Ford has, by default, saddled Ontarians with a confusing, far less effective, patchwork of rules. As for the premier’s numbers, they’re outdated. His own health minister, Christine Elliott, said so. And while she agreed the number of potential staff losses would have been “significant” she failed to provide precise numbers to back up her assertion.
To be fair, it’s true that at least some health care providers would be stubborn enough lose their jobs rather than be vaccinated. But rather than cave in to their threats and irrational, irresponsible behaviour, the governments of Ontario and Quebec should have stood firm and called their bluff. No health care worker would ever be forced to have a vaccine injected into their arm. But those who refused would deal with the consequences.
In marked contrast, Air Canada has stuck to its vaccine-mandate guns and suspended 8,000 of its 27,000 employees for refusing to get the jab. Its planes are still flying. The Toronto District School Board has put nearly 800 workers on unpaid leave because they failed to disclose their vaccination status. The schools remain open. If an airline trying to protect its customers and staff and a board trying to guard its students and employees are willing to go to these lengths, so should the Ontario and Quebec governments when the integrity of their hospitals is at stake. Their health care systems would have gone on, too, likely with more fully vaccinated workers.
Ford’s decision is especially puzzling considering that another branch of the provincial government, the Ministry of Long-Term Care, has mandated COVID-19 vaccines for anyone working in care homes. Workers in these facilities face termination unless they show proof of vaccination by Nov. 15. Go figure. Why do some of our key leaders seem incapable of running a mass vaccination initiative?
It now seems only a matter of time before Canadian children aged five- to 11-years-old will be eligible for a COVID vaccine. But parents aware of Ford’s laissez-faire approach to vaccinations might erroneously conclude it’s no big deal to spare their children from the jab. If that happens, the hope of reaching the 90-per-cent vaccination level that would make this province truly safe will have faded. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)