Hamilton Health Sciences issues termination notices as mandatory staff vaccination deadline passes

Close to 185 termination notices are set to be issued to workers over the next few days, according to management at one of Hamilton’s hospital networks.

Hamilton Health Sciences’ deadline for all staff and physicians to report their vaccination status passed as of midnight Wednesday.

All staff are now required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with some “limited exceptions.”

“We hope that these individuals will choose to avoid termination by becoming fully vaccinated by January 26,” the hospital said in a release on Wednesday night.

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“We encourage our colleagues to make the right choice and to choose to stay at HHS,” Hamilton Health Sciences said.

The hospital system says so far 13 employees have now been terminated for non-compliance with reporting and testing requirements.

About 52 individuals have been disciplined for non-compliance with reporting or testing. Less than five have a medical exemption.

Termination notices may be rescinded if employees get a second dose on, or before, Jan. 12 and become fully vaccinated by Jan. 26.

As of Thursday, a majority of staff and physicians at both of the city’s networks are fully vaccinated with many more updating their status as each week passes, according to spokespeople at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and HHS.

HHS is reporting that over 96 per cent of its 13,300 workers are fully vaccinated, while 95 per cent of about 5,700 staffers at St. Joe’s have reported having at least a pair of shots.

The vaccination deadline for St. Joe’s staff is Dec. 14. Unpaid leaves of absences and even dismissal await those who do not become fully vaccinated in the next month, according to the hospital.

In September, both of the city’s agencies laid out plans for mandatory vaccination policies, arguing it was needed to maintain safe work environments and the protection of patients from the coronavirus.

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Those not vaccinated for approved reasons are subject to testing twice a week.

For the second day in a row, Hamilton public health reported over 30 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday which is above the average number of cases seen over the past seven days.

With the day-over-day spike, the city’s seven-day average case rate now stands at 24, up from the average of 21 reported for all of last week.

The city had an overall average case rate of 19 per day for all of November, slightly lower than the average 22 cases per day reported in the month of October.

Active cases are up significantly day over day, moving to 280 compared to the 178 reported on Wednesday.

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More than 75 per cent of all active cases are in people under the age of 50, while 45 per cent are under 30.

The city’s per cent positivity rate — representing the number of tests returning positive from labs — dropped slightly week over week to 2.2 per cent from 2.4 per cent. The number is still lower than the provincial average of 2.9 per cent reported on Thursday.

One more COVID-related death was reported on Thursday involving a person over the age of 80. Hamilton has now had 420 deaths tied to the affliction since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The city revealed a new school outbreak bringing the total number of active surges in educational institutions to nine as of Dec. 2.

Forty-one of the city’s 50 total cases connected with 12 ongoing outbreaks are from schools.

The largest is at St. Gabriel Catholic Elementary School, which has 14 total cases — one among staff and 13 among students.

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In the last 14 days, both public boards combined have reported 69 cases, with 51 among students.

Hospitals in Hamilton are reporting a total of 14 COVID-19 patients as of Thursday, one less than the 15 reported on Wednesday.

Both St. Joe’s and Hamilton Health Sciences are averaging less than one new hospital admission each day.

Over the last week, Hamilton’s health partners have administered close to 16,000 vaccine doses, with Friday recording the largest intake over the week — 2,856 shots.

With a COVID-19 vaccine becoming available to kids aged five through 11, the city saw an 88 per cent increase in doses administered week over week.

Over the last seven days, the city administered 15,898 shots, close to 7,400 more than Nov. 18 through Nov. 24.

November’s average shots per day, 1,324, surpassed the number of shots administered per day in all of October by just under 300 doses.

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As of Wednesday, 83.4 per cent of eligible Hamiltonians over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated while 86.4 per cent have had at least a single dose. The city is still behind the provincial average, which has 87.2 per cent fully vaccinated and 90 with at least one vaccine dose.

Residents aged 70 to 84 have reached the Ministry of Health’s target of 90 per cent first and second dose coverage. Meanwhile, Hamiltonians aged 25 to 29 represent the lowest vaccination rates of those eligible in the community at just over 73.5 per cent fully vaccinated.

Hamilton is behind 31 other public health units in the percentage of two-dose vaccinations.

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