Unvaccinated Mtl. nurses will have licences suspended

4,338 nurses are not adequately vaccinated, and 2,807 are not vaccinated at all, according to the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec.

The Montreal Gazette 4 minute read October 12, 2021

The Quebec Order of Nurses says it will suspend the licences of nurses who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Among its 80,500 nurses, 4,338 are not adequately vaccinated, including 2,807 not vaccinated at all and 1,531 who have had one dose, said Luc Mathieu, president of the order.

The vaccination status of 5,716 other nurses has not yet been verified, he told Radio-Canada in an interview. Those nurses will not be suspended until the order confirms their status.

Roughly 15,000 health-care workers who are not fully vaccinated will be suspended without pay starting Friday, Health Minister Christian Dubé has warned.

Mathieu said nurses have an obligation to protect the public, and getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The suspensions and loss of salary will be enforced until the nurses provide proof that they’re adequately vaccinated.

“They will have to live with the impact of not being vaccinated on time,” he said.

The decision to suspend nursing licences was made Friday after the order met with officials from the health department. Mathieu has warned ministry officials that suspending nurses could lead to disruptions in service to patients.

Nurses who decide to get vaccinated this week will have to wait 21 days before they can have a second dose.

Some nurses thought Dubé was bluffing when he threatened to suspend unvaccinated health-care workers, Mathieu said, adding that many rushed to get their first dose after Quebec adopted a decree authorizing the vaccine mandate.

The province is undergoing a major reshuffle of its 330,000 health-care workers to alleviate the shortage of workers.

Dubé has suggested to all professional orders in the health sector that they suspend the licences of members who refuse to be vaccinated.

On Tuesday, a lawyer representing hundreds of health-care workers plans to file a motion asking the Superior Court to temporarily stop the government from going ahead with the suspensions.

Lawyer Natalia Manole is asking the court to rule on a safeguard order, an urgent legal filing, to temporarily halt the province’s suspension. She hopes to argue the case on Thursday, the day before the measure is due to take effect.

If the safeguard order is granted, Manole will argue on the merits of the case at a later date in hopes of attaining a more permanent injunction. Manole said she is representing roughly 150 health-care workers who say they don’t want to get vaccinated, but feel they can still perform their jobs safely and limit the spread of the virus.

“It’s a violation of the rights of health-care workers, and this decree also goes against public interest,” Manole said. “There is already a lack of health-care workers. You can’t just have (15,000) people not go to work on Friday. It will be chaos and just a collapse. The situation is already critical. This situation is going to create a disaster.”

Manole said those health-care workers she represents say they are willing to be tested regularly, and she intends to prove regular testing is more effective in preventing the spread of the virus than compulsory vaccine mandates, especially since vaccines wear off, or can be ineffective.

“It is not reasonable,” she added. “A decree is supposed to be made in the public interest; our position is that this is not in the public interest.”

She added the government has not submitted any proof the vaccine mandate would actually help prevent the spread of the virus more efficiently than regularly testing workers.

Manole said there are myriad reasons her clients haven’t been vaccinated. 

Some have treated patients who became ill after having been vaccinated, and are concerned about possible vaccine side effects. Others have already had COVID-19 and were not seriously ill and some have treated COVID-19 patients in hospital and have not contracted the virus.

“Our position is that they’re entitled to make decisions about their own body,” Manole said.

Dubé took to Twitter Monday saying he welcomed the order’s position. “The signal is clear. It’s not possible to bypass the mandatory vaccination in the health-care network on Oct. 15.”

The health minister encouraged nurses to get vaccinated as soon as possible. “It’s never too late.”


With files from Jason Magder and Presse Canadienne