Ottawa Hospital apologizes for revealing names of unvaccinated staff

The hospital's union said the privacy breach might make it harder to convince staff members they should get vaccinated.

Ottawa Citizen 3 minute read September 14, 2021

OTTAWA - May 12, 2020 - Ambulance line ups at the Ottawa Civic Hospital in Ottawa. Tony Caldwell / Postmedia

The Ottawa Hospital has apologized after a privacy breach revealed the names of unvaccinated staff members in a group email inviting them to complete a COVID-19 vaccine education session.

The president of CUPE 4000, which represents hospital staff, said the breach has angered some of those on the list and may prove to be a setback in convincing them to get vaccinated.

“People were reluctant first of all to give their information (about vaccination status) because they weren’t sure where it was going to be stored,” said Lou Burri. “A lot of employees are upset and they are going to dig in. This made things worse, for sure.”

The Ottawa Hospital and other hospitals in the city, as well as most across the province, announced employees must have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 7 and their second dose by Oct. 15.

The hospital has said it will encourage vaccination and require testing during the transition period. As of Oct. 15, it will “examine the vaccination rate of our staff and determine whether further measures are required to ensure the safety of our health-care environment.”

Burri said about 390 members of a workforce of more than 10,000 remain unvaccinated.

He said he, and many of the workers, would have preferred if the hospital had contacted them one-on-one about education and to encourage vaccination.

“Needless to say, people were reluctant to get the vaccine in the first place and this just threw a big curve ball in.”

As of now, Burri said, workers who refuse to declare their vaccination status or undergo a swab are being sent home without pay.

In a statement, the hospital said the email, which was sent last week, “was immediately recalled and all copies were deleted. An apology and explanation was sent to the staff members affected.”

It was investigated by the hospital’s information and privacy office and reported to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

“The Ottawa Hospital expects every member of our organization to receive the vaccine, as it is an important step to ensuring the safety of everyone in our community. Educating our unvaccinated staff is an important step in that journey. Health-care workers have worked tirelessly to protect our communities throughout the pandemic, and they deserve protection and support to enable them to do their jobs safely, and to the best of their abilities.”