There are two pressing issues that we continue to work on as we head into the holiday season and I wanted to provide you with updates on both of them. I’ll only touch on the key points in this message but please feel free to check out our COVID-19 page on our website for links to documents that I reference.
The rollout of the Pfizer vaccine has started across the country and news reports are suggesting that the Moderna vaccine will be arriving toward the end of the year. In Ontario, the Premier has created the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, chaired by General Rick Hillier, to provide advice and guidance, including the ethical, timely and effective distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The government’s plan is to have vaccine available for delivery in 19 hospitals by the end of this month. Most of you have likely heard that priority is being given to health care workers in high-risk settings first and from what we have been able to determine, the first phase is focusing primarily on front-line workers in long-term care homes.
Will residents be recognized as front-line health care providers?
Yes. We have confirmed with the Ministry of Health as well as the Council of Academic Hospitals that residents will not be forgotten or overlooked. It is entirely possible that priority will be given to those residents who are working in higher risk areas. We are working closely with the PGME Offices as well as with CAHO to ensure that we are not overlooked. Coincident with focusing on the vaccine rollout, we are continuing to ensure that appropriate PPE is available so that all residents, regardless of when they receive their vaccination, are protected while they work.
Will residents be involved in administering the vaccine?
Yes. As hospital employees, we can be assigned specific duties that are within the scope of our practice and competencies. In addition, the Council of Faculties of Medicine of Ontario has a policy that spells out the relationship between service and learning and addresses the fact that new work assignments can be given as long as they don’t compromise training.
Another thing to keep in mind is that we are also currently working under the Government Emergency Act, which gives the government additional powers to manage the pandemic. We have appreciated that our employers have been responsible in how they have applied this power.
As always, PARO has been communicating that we expect that all the members of the healthcare team who are qualified to participate in vaccination are included in the rollout strategy.
Am I entitled to additional pay beyond my salary for administering the vaccine?
If you are asked to work in a vaccine clinic outside of your regular working hours, you are entitled to be paid a home call stipend if the work doesn’t extend beyond 2300 hrs. In the event that you work in a vaccine clinic beyond 2300 hrs, then you are entitled to an in-hospital call stipend. Similarly, if you are already working home call on your service and you are asked to come into the hospital to work in a vaccine clinic for more than four hours, of which more than one hour is past midnight and before 6 a.m., the stipend would convert to an in-hospital call stipend.
Not surprisingly, residents have a long and proud history of stepping up in times of need. There are countless stories over these past months of residents working hard to manage the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of their patients, co-workers, colleagues, friends and family. I expect that as the vaccine rolls out, there will be many more examples of the high degree of professionalism that we all embrace.
Vacation Payout Update
Our PARO staff, legal counsel and Board of Directors have exerted pressure at every level to ensure that the vacation pay that many of you are owed gets paid. At no time did we think that we wouldn’t be paid, but it has been extremely challenging to get the necessary approvals within the government for the funds to be released. I am very pleased to report that the appropriate signatures were finally secured and that all of the pay centres have received written confirmation from the Government of Ontario that the funds will be released.
As of this morning, here is the status of the payout at each site:
• Western University – vacation pay has been issued
• University of Toronto – vacation pay has been issued
• University of Ottawa – a special pay run will ensure that vacation pay will be deposited by December 31st
• McMaster University – vacation pay will be issued on January 11th
• Queen’s University – vacation pay will be issued in early January
• NOSM – aiming for vacation pay to be issued by January 15th, but no later than Jan 31st
I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard on this issue, including David Brook, VP Labour Relations at the Ontario Hospital Association who has advocated so strongly on our behalf.
Thank you as well to all of you who have demonstrated such incredible patience.
As news reports circulate that the province is about to enter into another wide-spread lockdown I want to take a moment to acknowledge how challenging the pandemic has been for so many people in our society. All of our lives have been disrupted in ways that were unimaginable a year ago. Uncertainty has become the ever-present norm and with uncertainty there is an underlying level of stress that takes a toll. As the new year unfolds, many of us will have the privilege of reducing uncertainty by playing a role in ending this pandemic by being on the front-lines of the vaccination effort.
Thank you as well, to each of you for the valuable role that you play in the lives of our patients, their families and your colleagues in the health care system, by coupling the knowledge and skills that you are acquiring through your residency with compassion and caring inspired by our love of medicine.
With warmest wishes for the holiday season,
Dr. Ryan Giroux