Leadership with the Lake of the Woods District Hospital is providing more clarity into their recent mandatory vaccination policy announcement.

On November 11, the hospital’s Board of Directors approved implementing a mandatory vaccination policy that applies to all hospital staff, professional staff, volunteers, visitors, learners, contractors and service providers across all of their sites.

The hospital announced that as of December 1, 2021, visitors and essential care partners will be required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination to visit their facilities.

President and CEO, Ray Racette, explains that the policy will not affect patients at the hospital and it will be phased in over a two-month period for staff and visitors, with the goal of the policy being in place for all visitors by the end of January.

“It’s a very complex policy to implement,” said Racette. “The first group that we’re starting with are essential care partners and visitors, and we’re starting with them on December 1 to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.”

By January 31, hospital staff, professional staff, volunteers, learners, contractors and service providers will also be required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Racette says with about 150 people coming into the hospital each day, the mandatory vaccination policy will be in place to help minimize the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak within their staff members – especially ahead of the holiday season when people tend to gather indoors.

“We have a lot of details to plan. The reason for doing this is to tighten down our last areas of risk, as we enter probably the last year of the pandemic. Our big fear is if we don’t do everything possible within our ability, we do risk some type of outbreak or exposure of staff within the hospital.”

Racette has reported that hospital staff had a 96 per cent vaccination rate when they were offered their first dose of the vaccine in April.  Now, Racette says the hospital has an over 98 per cent vaccination rate in staff members, with only a ‘small number’ of staff not vaccinated.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford refused to implement a mandatory vaccination policy for healthcare workers across the province, saying when British Columbia implemented theirs, over 3,000 healthcare workers resigned.

In Kenora, Racette says no one has resigned due to the new policy at this point. He notes if that were to happen, it would only exacerbate the hospital’s current staffing shortage.

Racette adds that the majority of Ontario’s hospitals have implemented their own mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies as well.