The vast majority of the Lake of the Woods District Hospital’s staff have received at least the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccination, as well as certain patients in the hospital’s care.

President and CEO of the lake of the Woods District Hospital, Ray Racette, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on April 25, making him the hospital’s final staff member to receive the shot.

During a virtual conference with regional media members earlier this week, Racette says over 500 front-line and behind-the-scenes staff members were offered the vaccine, but 20 employees refused the shot, representing about 4 percent of the hospital’s total staff.

“That’s pretty good,” said Racette, who notes the hospital’s goal was to have their staff vaccinated by the end of the month. “We’re now into 16 weeks before the second dose. By the time we hit August, all of our staff will have their second dose. It’s nice to have that done.”

Racette explains that everyone must consent to receive the vaccine, and leadership is looking at additional policies for staff members who refused the COVID-19 vaccination, which could prevent them from performing certain COVID-19 related tasks or cleaning measures. He notes he wouldn’t be surprised to see the COVID-19 vaccine become mandatory for certain healthcare staff in Ontario.

“I think it’s a really important decision. Right now, we have a requirement under a staff health policy for certain things that people need to be immunized against because we don’t want those diseases coming into our hospital and being passed onto patients or other staff.”

As well as staff members, Racette explains certain patients throughout the hospital such as those receiving chemotherapy or dialysis, or those from long-term care homes, also received a dose of the vaccine through the hospital’s vaccination team.

Overall, Racette says the recent vaccination efforts have taken a lot of the stress and burden off of patients and staff, as well as administration and leadership.

“We sometimes forget that we’ve been living with COVID for over a year. Anyone coming in our door could be bringing in COVID, not knowing they have it. We’ve had COVID patients. We’ve had [an] outbreak. It was a really emotional experience. Everyone’s lives have been disrupted.”

During the conference, Racette noted COVID-19 has allowed staff to re-evaluate plans for the eventual replacement or expansion of Kenora’s hospital into the All-Nations Hospital, which includes additional negative pressure airflow to assist with respiratory illnesses, as well as creating single-bed rooms built with isolation measures in mind, opposed to rooms with the standard two to three beds for patients.

As of April 28, the NWHU has reported administering nearly 26,000 COVID-19 vaccinations in the area, and about 28 percent of northwestern Ontario’s population has received at least one dose.

The NWHU says 12,111 doses have been administered in residents aged 18-59, 6,058 doses in those aged 60-69, 4,827 doses for residents aged between 70-79, and 2,982 doses have been administered for those 80 or above in their catchment area.

Groups that are eligible to sign-up for the provincial COVID-19 vaccination booking system include anyone aged 60 years or older, healthcare workers, Indigenous adults and those in long-term care homes.

Vaccine appointments for those with the highest risk health conditions such as pregnant adults, those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, obesity with a BMI over 40 or residents on treatments that can cause immuno-suppression, their caregivers, and pregnant people are available by calling 1-833-943-3900 or through their healthcare provider.

More information on booking an appointment can be found HERE.

Anyone with any COVID-19 symptoms or who has been in contact with a positive case of the virus is asked to immediately self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your test results are known.