Kingston hospital suspends 136 employees without pay for violating vaccine mandate

KINGSTON, ONT. — Kingston’s research and teaching hospital has placed 136 employees on two-week, unpaid leave for failing to comply with the hospital’s new COVID-19 vaccination policy.

The new policy at Kingston Health Sciences Centre requires all staff, physicians and learners to provide proof of having received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or a documented medical reason for not being vaccinated, by Wednesday.

Ninety-five per cent of the Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s employees have met the first dose requirement, and fewer than 10 employees have been granted a medical exemption.

“As of September 22, 136 KHSC employees are in non-compliance with our immunization policy and have been placed on an unpaid two-week administrative leave,” said KHSC in a statement to CTV News Ottawa.

“Following those two weeks, further disciplinary may be taken, up to and including termination, if those individuals cannot show proof of vaccination or cannot produce a valid medical exemption.”

The Kingston Health Sciences Centre did not say how many of the 136 employees suspended are nurses or physicians.

KHSC COVID-19 incident commander Elizabeth Bardon says the policy to suspend without pay is necessary to avoid an outbreak like the Kingston General Hospital faced earlier this summer.

“Having staff who have to go off work because they’ve been exposed, or worse are bringing COVID in and exposing their patients and our co-works is just not something that we feel we can manage during COVID, and so this the way we’re going as many other hospitals in the province are,” said Bardon on Thursday afternoon.

Bardon says the employees placed on leave will have two weeks to show their proof of vaccination or provide a medical exemption. Those who don’t comply could be terminated.

“We have informed people that they will go into a disciplinary stream for failing to abide by a policy. And we will work out the next steps with our people services team over the next couple of weeks,” said Bardon.

There are 5,000 employees at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre, including nurses and doctor.

The Kingston Health Sciences Centre includes Kingston General Hospital, the Hotel Dieu Hospital and the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario.

“As an organization, we strongly believe that vaccination is the top preventive strategy against COVID-19, in conjunction with screening, wearing personal protective equipment such as masks, and physical distancing,” said KHSC.

“As health-care providers, we have an ethical and professional obligation to take all necessary steps to keep our patients, families and each other safe from COVID-19.”

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