Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches is citing staffing issues as a primary concern for the city in her latest report to the Ottawa Board of Health. 

The warning comes as hospitals throughout the region are about to put hundreds of unvaccinated nurses and staff on unpaid leave as part of a mandatory vaccination program. 

Although the report identifies the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the city’s healthcare system, no mention is made of the hundreds of unvaccinated staff about to be put on unpaid leave. 

“The sheer volume of work brought on by COVID-19 and the length of the pandemic response have heightened concerns about workforce capacity and sustainability, raising human resources as a key organizational risk. Ensuring adequate and appropriate staffing levels and staff mix based on operational needs is critical to OPH successfully achieving its objectives,” wrote Etches. 

Among the solutions proposed by Etches to deal with staffing issues include retaining casual employees and training temporary positions. 

“Mitigation efforts include plans to maintain staffing capacity by seeking to retain casual pools of employees, training temporary employees, and ensuring that programs have the flexibility to quickly scale resources up or down as needed. Despite planning, the capacity to respond to a surge will be limited by available human resources and the response levels may need to be adapted, depending on the situation,” Etches notes. 

Recently, Ottawa Hospital announced that over 300 employees and staff who aren’t fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be put on an unpaid leave of absence. 

According to the hospital, 189 employees haven’t received a dose of COVID-19 vaccines while 129 others have only received one shot and are therefore not considered to be fully immunized. 

“There are a number of staff who have yet to become fully vaccinated by November 1 and therefore will be placed on unpaid leave of absence,” said a letter obtained by CTV News. 

Hospitals across Canada, including most recently Toronto’s SickKids Hospital, have also announced similar measures to exclude unvaccinated staff. Recent reports indicate that the hospital has put 147 staff on unpaid leave for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

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