With a flurry of new COVID-19 outbreaks in Hamilton hospitals, long-term care, and retirement homes this weekend - bringing the total to 36 outbreaks locally - today area hospital union leaders urged the province to include the region as a vaccination priority area.

All residents, health care workers and essential caregivers at long-term care and high-risk retirement homes in the priority regions of Toronto, Peel, York, and Windsor-Essex are being vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 21, 2021. Hamilton is the only grey zone that the provincial government left out of the accelerated plan.

As of Saturday, 200 people in Hamilton have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

“Our community should be added to the priority vaccination areas immediately. Outbreaks at long-term care and retirement homes are raging out of control,” says Dave Murphy, President of CUPE 7800, which represents 4,000 staff at Hamilton Health Sciences.

Murphy stressed that “unless we urgently begin to vaccinate long-term care residents, staff and essential visitors in Hamilton, we will face the exponential growth of this virus inside these institutions, with all of the needless suffering and death that brings with it. Our hospitals are already strained and working well over capacity and the government’s refusal to vaccinate in long-term care in Hamilton on a priority basis puts access to hospital care at risk.”

Santo Cimino, President of CUPE 786, which represents 1,500 staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital says he’s adding his voice to the area MPPs and many others who have called for the region’s long-term care residents, staff and essential visitors in Hamilton to be vaccinated on a priority basis.

“We are not in a wait and see situation here. We know that this virus spreads like a brush fire once it takes hold in care homes. There are tens of thousands of doses of the vaccines available in freezers which could be used to protect our community. We are asking the government to deploy them immediately or risk our hospitals being completely overwhelmed,” Cimino says.