It is undoubtedly tempting, for unvaccinated employees of the health network, to believe that they have won the standoff between them and the government on compulsory vaccination.
The recalcitrant, it’s true, held their own. They made the government cede. But they have lost the respect of the vast majority of Quebecers. They have lost sight of the very essence of their job – which is to heal, not to make sick.
And by refusing the vaccine, they are about to lose thousands of dollars in bonuses that their colleagues, on equal terms, will pocket. They who have been fighting for years to be recognized at their fair value …
For winners, we have already seen more glorious.
In fact, everyone comes out the loser of this infuriating outcome that we experienced on Wednesday. The government is losing face and losing its balance of power. The unions which have defended the indefensible are losing credibility and capital of sympathy.
And vulnerable patients lose the assurance that they will be cared for by caregivers who have taken all precautions not to infect them.
No one, really, has anything to claim victory.
We would obviously not like to be in Christian Dubé’s shoes. Two days before the deadline he had set for the compulsory vaccination of health workers, the minister realized that the part of “chicken” in which he himself had committed was going to end badly.
Mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers has, however, worked elsewhere, notably in France. But here, the extreme fragility of the network worked against the government. Mr. Dubé came to the conclusion that losing 14,000 workers on Friday would have catastrophic impacts on patients and remaining staff.
A minister cannot jeopardize his network just to survive. He must take his responsibilities, and he took them – even if it means enduring what we have no choice but to call humiliation.
The government claims that it has not lost everything. Before announcing compulsory vaccination in August, there were 28,000 unvaccinated health workers. Today there are 14,000 who have not received any doses. The number of walking bombs roaming the network has therefore been reduced by half. We can tell ourselves that it is already that. Or to realize, lucidly, that it is clearly insufficient.
The big problem is obviously that the government has just lost its credibility by retreating. By giving in on the October 15 deadline, the government is undermining its own threat to suspend all unvaccinated on November 15. Breaks in service will always be fearful on this date. Will the government back down again?
To this question asked many times on Wednesday by journalists, Minister Dubé gave a very unconvincing response. He simply said that we will “see where we are” on November 15, speaking of “reaching out” to unvaccinated employees. As if the government had abdicated.
However, it will be necessary to turn the page on the bad comedy that we have just experienced. COVID-19 is with us for a long time. The goal of vaccinating healthcare workers still remains highly justified. Is it now possible for everyone to work in the same direction to achieve this?
The message is, in any case, passed to the unions, which are far from coming out of the exercise with their heads held high. They must imperatively drop the unjustifiable legal challenge initiated against compulsory vaccination. And (finally!) Put pressure on their limbs to roll up their sleeves.
Now is the time to think about patients. Not to power struggles, backstage games and public confrontations.
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