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SHA confirms proof of vaccination policy for staff, phasing in by November

The Saskatchewan Health Authority has implemented a vaccination requirement for all staff in the health region, with a deadline of early November for completion
health care worker vaccinated
One in five healthcare workers remain not vaccinated, despite encouraging programming previously offered.

REGINA — The Saskatchewan Health Authority has finalized a COVID-19 vaccination policy that will require all current staff members to provide proof of vaccination 

Dr. Kevin Wasko, SHA physician executive with integrated rural health, said the decision was made in order to comply with the SHA’s commitment to safety.

“By getting vaccinated, healthcare providers are protecting ourselves, protecting our patients, protecting other members of the community and protecting our health system capacity by not falling sick,” said Wasko.

The policy will take a phased approach, beginning immediately and requiring employees to provide proof of vaccination status or, alternatively, an intention to take part in the monitored testing program or seek accommodation. Those who choose testing will do so at their own cost, said the health authority.

At least one of these actions is required by Oct. 15, said the SHA, and all team members will be required to submit proof of full vaccination status in early November.

Wasko said that the final policy put in place today was viewed by health care unions that represent SHA employees, during a consultation process.

“There was an opportunity for the unions to see the policy and give feedback, and even prior to writing the policy, there were calls from some unions asking for this,” said Wasko.

One in five healthcare workers remain not vaccinated, said public health, despite encouraging programming previously offered.

“There’s some apathy about it, some perception that they won’t get sick,” said Wasko. “There is some uncertainty in the vaccine or fear, like other members of society.”

Wasko also said that there have been confirmed scenarios where an unvaccinated staff member has introduced COVID-19 to the workplace, resulting in one or more infections.

“Those are the kind of scenarios we want to prevent, and the best way to do that is to endure that our entire workforce is fully vaccinated,” said Wasko. "A rapid test prior to a shift is not the same as being vaccinated, is not an equivalent option, but it is a measure we will put in place for those who refuse to comply with the policy."

The health authority did not expand on potential consequences for staff who do not comply with the policy, but said potential reprimands will be "outline through collective bargaining agreements and bylaws."

Wasko said that the health region has heard requests from patients, clients and employees to make vaccination mandatory in facilities, for personal safety.

“People who are seeking health care services are requesting that the people caring for them are fully vaccinated,” said Wasko. “People who are in the health care system and have done their part in getting vaccinated are requesting their coworkers be vaccinated.”

Introduction of the policy aims to improve vaccination rates, said the SHA, and Wasko indicated that anti-vaccine sentiments wouldn’t derail the policy.

“The vaccines are safe. We know that they are safe, they are effective,” said Wasko. “And it really is important for everyone to trust the science, to be assured that the vaccines are safe.”

More details about how the policy will be administered are expected to be released at a later date.

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