County’s new vaccine policy could send workers home

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

 HALDIMAND—County councillors voted to adopt a new corporation-wide vaccination policy and amended existing policies at Grandview Lodge and Paramedic Services requiring those staff be fully immunized by November 17 or be placed on an unpaid leave until they are vaccinated.

  “I want to point out for Council and the public that our Paramedic Service has an excellent vaccination rate already, in the high 90 percentage,” said General Manager of Corporate and Social Services, Cathy Case. “Unfortunately, our Grandview Lodge rate is not as high. We have 21% of staff there unvaccinated and a large portion of that number are providing direct care to our residents.”

  She continued, “This (mandatory vaccine policy) is something that a large group of private long-term care homes have already implemented across the country and now there is a large consortium of municipal long-term care homes who are joining.”

  Under the provincial guidelines, long-term care and paramedic services are considered high-risk settings. Case said the move for mandatory vaccines in these areas is for “the patients and residents and their rights to a safe environment and safe care.”

  Staff also recommended creating a pooled legal fund in case unvaccinated employees present legal challenges for being placed on unpaid leave.

  The new corporation-wide policy for the remainder of Haldimand County members, however, is not quite as strict. This includes staff, elected officials, firefighters, student volunteers, and others. It mandates disclosure of vaccination status, required by October 18 for all existing employees: “Anyone not disclosing or unvaccinated after that disclosure would be required to regularly test in order to come to work,” said Case.

Test results are needed twice a week and will be the responsibility of the employee: “We will be providing a list of local locations (for testing) … and it will be up to staff to do that on their own time and at their own cost…. If test results are not provided, that person would be unable to come to work and would remain on an unpaid leave until such time as they present those results.”

  “The proposed policy revolves around the safety of staff and the safety of the public. Haldimand County as an employer has an obligation to the Ontario Health and Safety Act to provide a safe work environment for its staff. That’s really the premise of this entire report,” explained Case. “It allows us to resume a normal work environment and continue to provide service delivery without any disruptions and with adequate staff levels.”

  While existing employees have the option for regular testing, the policy states that all new hires at the County will require full vaccination as a condition of employment. 

  Council voted unanimously in favour of adopting the policy and amendments.