/HHHS maintaining vigilance during fourth wave

HHHS maintaining vigilance during fourth wave

By Katrina Boguski

The Haliburton Highlands Health Services board met virtually on Sept 23. CEO Carolyn Plummer provided an update on several issues related to the fourth wave of the pandemic. 

Her written report, contained in the information package for this meeting stated, “The fourth wave is different, with the prevalence of the Delta variant and with concerns arising over cases amongst young children, as they are unable to be vaccinated as yet, and there are limited pediatric hospital and ICU beds available for this population. The fourth wave has not yet had a direct significant impact on services at HHHS, however we continue to maintain vigilance with our precautions, and we are participating in planning meetings with regional hospital partners. Locally, the number of positive COVID-19 cases has increased over the past two weeks among residents of Haliburton County…”

The report went on to add, “Staff vaccinations have also continued at HHHS; a total of 88% of staff have had a first dose, and 85% are fully vaccinated. HHHS has implemented a vaccination policy for staff, following the Long-Term Care Minister’s Vaccination Directive and the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health’s Directive #6, which set out requirements for healthcare worker vaccination policies. As of September 7, 2021, all HHHS staff must provide proof of vaccination or written proof of a valid medical exemption. Unvaccinated staff, including those with medical exemptions, must complete an education program regarding COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine safety, and must submit to regular surveillance testing for COVID-19. All staff, regardless of vaccination status, must still undergo screening when entering HHHS facilities or prior to providing care/service as part of their role at HHHS.”

During the question period, President and CEO Carolyn Plummer was asked about the decision to not make vaccinations among medical staff mandatory, as some other health facilities have done in other areas. In response to this question, Plummer noted that the policy took into consideration a number of factors including choice and availability of health care professionals in this region. 

Mandatory vaccination policies at some other hospitals may lead to termination. Plummer noted that the local health unit is supportive and encouraging of vaccination. However, staffing shortages are already an issue. If vaccination among staff were to be made mandatory, that requirement could lead to even more drastic staffing shortages. 

Plummer assured those listening that all of the precautions which have been in place during the pandemic remain in place. 

Challenges related to staffing are also seen among physicians. Plummer noted that fewer and fewer recruits want to take on multiple roles and consequently the physician recruitment model may change going forward.