Quebec Is About To Suspend Thousands Of Nurses And Orderlies For Refusing Covid Vaccination

4000 nurses, 2500 orderlies among unvaccinated healthcare workers to be suspended without pay as of October 15, adding to the shortage of qualified health workers in the province.

By Nathan Munn

October 12, 2021

Thousands of unvaccinated healthcare workers in the Canadian province of Quebec are set to be suspended without pay as of October 15, the deadline for all healthcare workers in the province to be vaccinated.

Some 4000 nurses and 2500 orderlies will be removed from Quebec’s health care system due to their not being vaccinated. At the time of writing, the province has not made public it’s plan for replacing the workers. The CHUM hospital system also expects to suspend some 500 workers, out of a total of 14,000 employees.

Shortage of healthcare workers in Quebec

Quebec has suffered from a shortage of healthcare staff since the earliest days of the pandemic. The lack of qualified staff in critical care departments across the province has prompted the province to allocate $1 billion in new incentives to attract and retain nurses, a gesture some healthcare workers say misses the mark. Quebec nurses told The Canadian Press that the real problem is not their pay, but the mandatory overtime they are required to put in.

Nurse Sandra Gagnon expressed her frustration with the government’s plan to give out bonuses to full-time nurses: “It’s so great, $15,000, but what do you want me to do with it?” Gagnon said. “I won’t have the energy and health to spend it.”

Sacha Kulenovic, an orderly at the CHUM intensive care unit, told the Montreal Gazette he decided not to get vaccinated for personal reasons.

“I have doubts, but instead of trying to alleviate our doubts, the government is just trying to scare us into getting vaccinated,” said Kulenovic.

Now, thousands of critical healthcare workers set to leave the system at a time when staffing shortages are already widespread in Quebec. The emergency room at Gatineau Hospital, for example, has been partially shuttered and operating at half-capacity since June. Healthcare services have been negatively impacted at Coaticook Hospital, medical facilities in Port-Cartier and Seneterre Hospital.

Impacts of vaccine passports

The government of Quebec, which was the first in Canada to roll out a vaccine passport system, also announced this week that from October 12 to 14, anyone wishing to enter a health care facility in the province will be required to show a vaccine passport, as part of a “trial run”.

“This is a test period for the new screening system and no one will be turned away during these three days,” tweeted the local health authority for the Centre-Ouest-de-l’Ile-de-Montreal on October 7.

Some businesses in the province are also lamenting a slowdown in business since the vaccine passport came into effect. Others have mixed feelings about the restrictions resulting from the vaccine passport system.

The daily number of new coronavirus infections has been slowly dwindling in Quebec in recent days, with daily confirmed infections now around 400. Covid-related admissions to Quebec intensive care units (ICUs) are also dropping after steadily increasing for weeks.