The University Health Network (UHN) may controversially force unvaccinated employees to take a leave of absence during the COVID fourth wave, reported CTV News. Ontario Health is working on ways to convince vaccine-resistant workers to get the jab.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford mandated health care and education employees to provide proof of vaccination following considerable pressure by provincial unions. A medical reason for not getting the vaccine is permissible, as well as mandatory COVID testing to protect public health and in the workplace.

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, said that as of September 7 – hospitals and other public sector employers will have greater power to bolster vaccine uptake.

UHN was among Ontario’s first employers to mandate that unvaccinated employees submit to regular COVID testing before their shifts. Vaccine uptake increased by seven percent last month to 92 percent as of Wednesday.

UHN CEO Kevin Smith said about 950 of its employees remain unvaccinated. "We have to insist that people actually participate in a vaccine program or think about taking a leave of absence," he said.

Those vaccine-resistant workers amount to eight percent of the network’s workforce. They are required to submit to a "swabbing program," testing up to 48 hours before their shift.

Smith said that despite a small group of unvaccinated employees refusing the program that it has been a "remarkable success." He told them that that's not an option. The hospital administration then told those individuals to take a "cooling off period" from work.

"We had very frank dialogues with [them] and said... here's a couple of weeks off for you to consider whether that's really your position that you don't wish to comply with the hospital's policies. Happy to say we now have 100 percent compliance," said Smith.

The new guidelines beginning September 7 convinced the UHN to reconsider their minimum standards for employment. This may include asking unvaccinated employees to work from home or take a leave of absence.

Smith clarified that the UHN would "love to avoid termination wherever possible" and considered the drastic action a last-resort option. However, he said, "The needs of the patient comes first."

He said hospitals need to be the safest possible environments for patients, families and at-risk staff, concluding that they may need to make "very difficult decisions" to protect the "best interests of patients."

UHN’s Executive Director of Social Medicine and Population Health, Dr. Andrew Boozary, previously criticized Alberta’s reopening plan in July as a "cruel experiment that is being imposed at a public policy level."

He insisted the announcement was "one of the most egregious policy disconnects" he saw nationwide, adding it would not protect and save people’s lives.

Boozary added that supporters of the move "are not in line with the science," as "[they] want to pander to [the] politicization of the pandemic."