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KHSC employees seek new careers after being put on unpaid leave

Healthcare workers are looking for new work after being put on unpaid leave at Kingston’s Health Sciences Centre (KHSC).

KHSC employees had until Sept. 21 to receive their first dose and will have until Oct. 22 to receive their second. By Oct. 29, KHSC employees must be fully vaccinated with documentation. 

Employees who did not provide proof of vaccination on Sept. 21 were put on administrative leave for two weeks, during which they are expected to submit this proof. Failure to do so may result in termination.

“In the face of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, fueled by the more transmissible Delta variant, everyone who works, learns, and volunteers at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” KHSC Incident Commander Elizabeth Bardon wrote in a statement.

“Without proof of vaccination, KHSC health care workers may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.”

Employees not yet vaccinated provided reasons for noncompliance with KHSC’s vaccine mandate, which they viewed as an intrusion on their personal freedoms. 

One of the affected employees, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been suspended. In an interview with YGK News, they shared doubts about the COVID vaccine, claiming they were not given enough time to decide for themselves. 

When asked why they wouldn’t get vaccinated, responses included “lack of adequate studies” and “rushed vaccine implementation.”  

“I’ve heard of several cases of people having severe reactions to the vaccine, and I don’t feel like I should have to be forced to put something like that in my body,” Alex* said.

Affected employees said they’re worried about their future and their families.

“I was part of the rally in front of the hospital, and the only reason why I did that was that I thought people were afraid to speak out because of the level of shame that we are exposed to and bullying,” Alex* said.

A Kingston anti-vaccination group has become a place where suspended employees are reaching out to each other for support.

Some hospital employees, including Alex,* are now posting on anti-vaccination groups to find new employment. “I have been suspended from my job at the hospital because I didn’t take the [vaccine] on their timeline. I’m looking for work. If you know of anything, please let me know,” one user said.

In order to make ends meet, some former employees have transitioned to the wellness and nutrition industry while others have been working at local bars.

“I run my holistic nutrition business. I do consults, run woman’s programs, make meal plans, make and deliver food to homes,” one user told group members.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has issued a statement in support of mandatory vaccinations.

“While receiving a COVID-19 vaccine remains voluntary, the OHRC takes the position that mandating and requiring proof of vaccination to protect people at work or when receiving services is generally permissible under the Human Rights Code (Code) as long as protections are put in place to make sure people who are unable to be vaccinated for Code-related reasons are reasonably accommodated,” wrote the OHRC on September 23.

Around 95 percent of KHSC employees are fully vaccinated, while 136 employees have not provided proof of vaccination. 

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