Quebec Minister of Health Christian Dube announced on Wednesday that he would be delaying the vaccine mandate deadline for healthcare workers by one month, one day after vowing he would stand by it.
Healthcare workers will now have until Nov. 15 to be fully vaccinated or risk suspension without pay.
“When we have the potential departure of unvaccinated staff, we find ourselves adding undue pressure on our network, and especially on the vaccinated healthcare workers who have been at the front for months,” Dube said. “And if we continue like this, we will run into a wall.”
Thousands of nurses in Quebec are expected to be suspended without pay if they refuse to take a COVID-19 vaccine, despite there being a nursing shortage in the province.
The Quebec Order of Nurses said that they are looking into suspending nursing licenses of nurses who are not fully vaccinated.
Unvaccinated nurses in Quebec have joined together to oppose vaccine mandates by filing a lawsuit. They are arguing that alternatives such as regular testing can ensure their workplaces remain safe.
According to the Quebec government, roughly 15,000 healthcare workers could be suspended without pay because they choose not to be vaccinated.
Postponing the 30-day deadline is the best solution under the circumstances, according to Dube.
Starting Monday, all unvaccinated staff will have to be tested three times per week before their shifts. This requirement will be in public hospitals for now, but the Quebec government will look at expanding it to the private network.
The Quebec government said the vaccine mandate will apply to people providing direct services, but they are looking at extending it to anyone working in healthcare facilities.
New healthcare workers will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Visitors and caregivers going into healthcare facilities need to show a vaccine passport.
Dube implored unvaccinated healthcare workers to take the vaccine by the new deadline.
“Please do it for yourselves and your loved ones,” he said. “Otherwise, do it for your colleagues, because they really need you.”