Quebec has pushed back the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for workers in the health-care network to Nov. 15.
Health Minister Christian Dubé announced the 30-day delay Wednesday as the initial deadline for mandatory vaccination loomed, with thousands of employees facing suspension without pay.
Citing the pressure on the health network amid the weight of the pandemic, Dubé said it would be irresponsible to remove more workers right now. The risk of labour shortages is too high for a system that is already short-staffed, he added.
“It is essential to us to protect our network and our patients,” he said, describing it is a “difficult decision” to postpone the mandate.
In the meantime, Dubé told reporters that all unvaccinated health-care workers in both the public and private sector will be tested at least three times a week starting next Monday.
Those who don’t have both doses will also forego their pandemic-related bonuses, he said. This includes the financial incentive ranging from $12,000 to $18,000 for nurses who work or are willing to take on a full-time schedule in the public system under the province’s plan to boost staffing.
The Quebec government had previously stood firm on the Oct. 15 deadline for health workers in both the private and public sector to be fully immunized against COVID-19 — despite calls from unions and opposition parties to push back the date to avoid a breakdown in services.
As recently as Tuesday, the health minister maintained he wasn’t going to budge on the date, saying there was a contingency plan in the works to reduce the impact of suspensions, which involved a “reorganization” of services.
In Quebec, professional orders representing nurses and pharmacists announced earlier this week they would suspend the licences of unvaccinated members. On Tuesday, the orders that regulate licensed practical nurses and respiratory therapists also said members who are not fully vaccinated by Friday would not be able to work.
—with files from The Canadian Press
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