The province says they won’t be forcing healthcare workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

A statement from Premier Doug Ford says the province consulted with every hospital CEO in Ontario to ask their input on whether or not Ontario should impose a mandatory vaccine policy for healthcare staff.

Ford says hospitals already have high vaccination rates and robust infection control measures, and only 6 of Ontario’s 141 hospitals have an active COVID-19 outbreak. He also noted when British Columbia implemented their mandatory vaccine mandate, over 3,000 healthcare workers resigned.

“This is a complex issue,” wrote Ford. “But when the impact of the potential departure of tens of thousands of health care workers is weighed against the small number of outbreaks that are currently active in Ontario’s hospitals, I am not prepared to jeopardize the delivery of care to millions of Ontarians.”

“Having looked at the evidence, our government has decided to maintain its flexible approach by leaving human resourcing decisions up to individual hospitals,” says Ford.

As it stands, there is no provincial requirement that healthcare staff have to be vaccinated, but Ontario has mandated that hospitals are required to develop a vaccination policy for staff. Many include the provision that unvaccinated members must be tested for COVID-19 daily before coming into work.

Still, Ontario’s Science Advisory Table has said that a vaccination mandate for healthcare workers can ‘enhance safety and reduce the risk of staffing disruptions due to COVID-19.’

The Ontario Hospital Association has also been calling on Ford to implement a mandatory vaccination policy for healthcare workers since July. Last month, the OHA submitted a petition in favour of a mandate that was signed by leaders of 120 of Ontario’s 141 hospitals.

“Our province has spent almost two years in a tireless fight against COVID-19 and the impact on our economy, on the healthcare system and on human health has been devastating. At this important juncture, Ontario cannot afford to let its guard down,” wrote the OHA, in a prepared statement.

Liberal leader in Ontario, Steven Del Duca, says Ford’s decision is catering to anti-vaccine protesters.

“Doug Ford has chosen anti-vaxxers over cancer patients. He’s putting the most vulnerable patients in harm’s way because he’s scared that the Conservative anti-vax community won’t support his re-election otherwise. He should be ashamed.”

When speaking to reporters on November 2, Deputy Premier and Ontario’s Health Minister, Christine Elliott, said “this is the right decision for right now here in Ontario,” but they will continue to keep an eye on the situation.