Vaccination should be mandatory for home care workers, cancer patient says

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An Ottawa cancer patient who’s now receiving chemotherapy infusions at home says the province should make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all home care workers.


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Retired pharmacist Iza Morawiecka said she was appalled when, earlier this week, she learned that the home care nurse being sent to her downtown apartment was unvaccinated.

Morawiecka, 74, started a six-month course of chemotherapy this week following colon cancer surgery in June. She needed a home care nurse to remove her infuser after her first chemotherapy treatment finished Wednesday.

Morawiecka had requested a fully vaccinated nurse because of her compromised immune system, and only found out about the health care worker’s vaccine status when she spoke to her on the phone about half an hour before she was to arrive.

The nurse said it was her personal choice not to be vaccinated.

“I told her she’s entitled to her personal opinion, but coming to treat immune-compromised patients while not double-vaccinated is inappropriate: It’s medical malpractice,” Morawiecka said in an interview Friday.


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Although she had been waiting several hours for the nurse to arrive, Morawiecka told her to stay away and send a fully vaccinated colleague instead. “I was livid,” she said.

Morawiecka’s daughter called the home care agency, Carefor, and spoke to a supervisor who was also a vaccinated nurse. The supervisor went to Morawiecka’s house and disconnected the infusion bottle from her central catheter, known as a PICC line.

Jessica Peters, Carefor’s director of quality and performance, said the company “actively encourages” its staff to get vaccinated while abiding by all of the rules around client care issued by the province.

“At present,” she noted, “Carefor staff are not required to be vaccinated to deliver care because, in Ontario, there is currently no legislated requirement that home care staff be vaccinated.”


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Peters said all Carefor staff, regardless of their vaccine status, are required to wear full personal protective equipment — including medical grade masks — when providing care to clients. Staff are selected to provide care based on their skill level not their vaccine status, she said, since they all wear full PPE to greatly reduce the possibility of virus transmission.

The company, she added, will follow any new requirements issued by the government.

Earlier this week, the Ontario Long-Term Care Association called on the province to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all health care workers.

The Ontario Medical Association and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario have called for the same thing. The organizations also want vaccinations made mandatory for teachers and school staff and a vaccine passport system introduced to curtail a fourth wave of COVID-19.


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Premier Doug Ford has refused to issue a vaccine requirement for health and education workers even as COVID-19 case counts rise in the province once again, and even as the federal government announced Friday that it will require federal employees, air and interprovincial rail travellers to be vaccinated.

Earlier this week, Ford rejected demands to meet with opposition parties to discuss the issue.

In Ontario, 72 per cent of eligible residents are fully immunized, but more than four million people remain unvaccinated. Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Morawiecka said it’s time for Ford to listen to those calling for mandatory vaccines for all health care workers.

“I was very fortunate to have a supportive team of family and friends to assist me,” she said, “but what about those patients that do not? Most people are going to assume that a healthcare professional arriving to help them is vaccinated.”


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It makes no sense, she argued, to allow unvaccinated health care workers to treat sick, vulnerable people and potentially infect them with COVID-19. The right to go unvaccinated, Morawiecka said, should not trump the right to safe health care.

“Yes, individuals have a personal right not be vaccinated, but employers have the right to say, ‘These are the criteria that you have to meet if you want to remain employed here.’”

Morawiecka was diagnosed with colon cancer after one of her doctors noticed that her hemoglobin and iron counts were low and recommended her for a colonoscopy in March. She also has chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and rheumatoid arthritis — conditions which further depress her immune system response and make her even more vulnerable to infection.

Morawiecka said she has received excellent treatment at The Ottawa Hospital despite the ongoing pandemic.

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