Long-term care home puts one-third of workers on unpaid leave

Copernicus Lodge loses 84 workers who have not proved vaccination

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Eighty-four workers at a Toronto long-term care home are on unpaid leave because they did not provide proof of vaccination with at least one shot by a Monday deadline set by their home.


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Copernicus Lodge — near Roncesvalles Ave. and Queen St. W. — says it has reached out to staffing agencies and health partners to fill staffing gaps for the roughly 248 residents who live there.

“It was a hard decision to make and hard for everyone involved,” said Marla Antia, a spokesperson for Copernicus. “Some of them are pretty strong in their convictions. So we have done a lot to try to inform them.”

The not-for-profit home set a deadline of Oct. 4 for proof of a first shot. Workers had until Nov. 4 to prove they were fully vaccinated.

Eighty-four out of about 343 employees are now out.

“With our low vaccination rate, facing a shortage of employees was kind of a reality we had to think about,” Antia said.

Outside Copernicus, a woman named Wanda was taking her friend, Irene Kulikowski, 99, out for a walk.


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Kulikowski has lived at the residence for 22 months.

“I think everything is OK; I think the staffing is OK,” said Wanda, standing not far from a sign outside the facility that says: “We are hiring.”

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Twenty-two residents at Copernicus have died from COVID-19. The facility expects to get an all-clear Oct. 8 for its latest outbreak.

As he made a funding announcement, Ontario Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips addressed the staffing changes and unpaid leave imposed at Copernicus.

“Although there are a limited number of staff who won’t get vaccinated despite everyone’s request that they do, the much bigger risk from a human resource perspective is losing 12 or 24 people because of an outbreak,” Phillips said, noting that Copernicus ranks in the bottom 10 among homes across the province for vaccination rates among staff.


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He announced $270 million will flow next month to add 4,050 staff to long-term care to address what Phillips called “decades of neglect.”

Just days ago, the province set a deadline of Nov. 15 for long-term care home workers to provide proof of vaccination.

Copernicus — which early in the pandemic was temporarily run by hospital network Unity Health Toronto — had already set its own deadlines before the province moved.

The passing of the deadlines has led to dramatic changes, but the home says unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave can always change their minds.

“We have heard from some employees that they’re intending to get vaccinated,” Antia said


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