LITTLE CURRENT – Unlike many other hospitals in the province which have policies in place mandating staff members to get vaccinations for COVID-19 (who risk being suspended without pay for not getting vaccinated by a certain date, and failing that face losing their job), the Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) approach to the issue seems to be positive thus far with those staff who had initially refused to get vaccinated changing their minds.
“Our policy on new hires is that they have to be fully vaccinated,” said Paula Fields, co-chief executive officer (CEO) of the MHC. “Currently our staff are to be double vaccinated, and those who have only had one vaccination need to be tested weekly until 14 days after their second dose. Those who have chosen not to get vaccinated have to go through a learning program, sign a declination form and they have to be tested on a minimum weekly basis currently because there are no active COVID-19 cases on the Island.”
Ms. Fields explained, “if and when confirmed COVID-19 cases increase these same staff members will have to be tested two to three times per week.” She pointed out those that are medically exempt must be tested weekly.
“Those staff members who are refusing to get vaccinated have to go through a progressive discipline program and are placed on leave of absence (immediately) and can’t come to work,” continued Ms. Fields. However, she explained, “we’re finding that this has encouraged staff in a great number of cases to get vaccinated.”
“We only have four staff that have chosen not to be vaccinated,” said Ms. Fields. “We are doing really well, better than a lot of hospitals.”
Ms. Fields said that one major concern of the MHC is that the hospitals have seen a shortage of registered nurses and registered practical nurses throughout the entire pandemic, as has been the case throughout Ontario. “We need more nurses desperately.”
“I wish the province would implement the New Graduate Initiative program that supports new nurses for nine months in their new role,” said Ms. Fields. She explained, “the MHC offers nurses incentives up to $5,000. This includes a sign on incentive of $2,500 after completion of probation and another $2,500 after the completion of the first year.” As well, a referral incentive for staff who refers a nurse to the MHC receives $500. The MHC also provides free in-house training of basic cardiac life support advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support, learned essential approaches to palliative care and the neonatal resuscitation program. (Each of these courses cost a minimum of $350 and are offered free to MHC nurses).
As well, through the Ministry of Health tuition reimbursement, nurses can apply to have their tuition reimbursed but they must provide the years of service in return. And with the Ministry of Health loan forgiveness program, nurses can have their OSAP loans forgiven.
“MHC is a wonderful place to start your nursing career and build nursing skills, you receive a solid foundation and well-rounded experience in providing care to emergency, medical, palliative, cardiac, obstetrical and non-clinical staff as well as have the opportunity to live on a beautiful Island.”