Jarvis: Patients shouldn't have to risk their lives to get care

Anne Jarvis 4 minute read October 14, 2021

COVID-19 vaccination rates among staff at 14 of the 19 long-term care homes in Windsor and Essex County, including Huron Lodge, which is operated by the city, were below the Ontario average when the government ordered all staff to get the shot by Nov. 15.

Eighty-six per cent of staff in the province were fully vaccinated when Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips announced the order Oct. 1. But only five homes in this region had 86 per cent of staff fully vaccinated. Ninety per cent of staff across the province had received their first dose. But staff at only three homes here had reached that rate.

Ninety-nine homes in Ontario had staff vaccination rates that were less than 80 per cent, which Phillips called concerning. Seven homes here had less than 80 per cent of staff fully vaccinated, and at two homes, less than 80 per cent had received their first shot.

Staff at Brouillette Manor in Tecumseh were the outliers. Ninety-five per cent of them were fully vaccinated, and 98 per cent had received their first dose.

The government published the data Oct. 1, the same day that Phillips announced the order. It was the first time that the government has published staff vaccination rates at every home. But the data was a month old. It’s as of Aug. 31. It’s supposed to be updated monthly. The government expects to publish the rates for September next week.

The data shows that staff at Huron Lodge had the lowest  vaccination rate of the 19 homes in this region. Only 71 percent of staff were fully vaccinated, and only 74 per cent had received the first dose.

But executive director Alina Sirbu disputed those numbers Wednesday, saying Huron Lodge reported that 77 per cent of staff were fully vaccinated and 84 per cent had received their first shot.

Residents’ families deserve to know these numbers, and they weren’t getting them before the government published them. But month-old numbers and disputes over the numbers — it makes you wonder how much confidence you can have in what’s being reported.

As of Wednesday, following the province’s order and an earlier one by the city, 79 per cent of staff at Huron Lodge were fully vaccinated, and 89 per cent had received one dose.

But that’s still below the government’s target, which Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore has said is “well into the 90s.”

Announcing the order Oct. 1, Phillips said, “You could simply see that we were not going to get to the level of vaccination that we needed to get.”

And that puts frail residents of long-term care homes, even those who are fully vaccinated, at risk.

Infections among unvaccinated staff are causing outbreaks, Phillips said. There were nine outbreaks in long-term care homes Wednesday.

That’s why the government is being forced, belatedly, to mandate vaccination.

More than 15,600 residents of long-term care homes in Ontario have been infected, and more than 3,800 have died.

Nursing home staff here were among the first people in the province to be offered the vaccine starting last December because of the high number of cases.

Yet, last May, then-local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed was still begging them to get the shot.

“All these long-term care home staff, if you’re still waiting for the vaccine, please go and get your vaccine,” he pleaded.

It’s hard to understand why health-care workers refuse to get a potentially life-saving vaccine during a global pandemic. Or why the government doesn’t require them to get it.

Moore said last week that his “next priority” is vaccination rates in hospital staff. He’s getting daily updates “to ensure that we’re making progress.”

Some hospitals, including all three here, aren’t waiting. They already require staff to be vaccinated.

But those who provide home care and health-care workers in clinics still don’t have to be vaccinated, either. So we’re left with a confusing patchwork of policies.

That leaves patients at risk, depending on who cares for them.

And what does it say about the importance of the vaccines?

You have to be vaccinated to go to a bar or gym, but not if you’re caring for cancer or transplant patients with compromised immune systems.

Health-care workers facing a vaccine mandate at one workplace can just move to another that doesn’t require the shot.

It’s crazy.

Every person who cares for the frail, the sick and the injured should be vaccinated. If you’re not vaccinated, you shouldn’t be caring for them, period. There should be one straightforward policy with a deadline and consequences, and it should cover all health care workers.

Vaccination or termination. That’s clear, and it sets the tone. That’s what Quebec is doing. The deadline is Friday.

Patients shouldn’t have to risk their lives to get care. Their right to safety trumps everything else.

To see the numbers, click here.



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