WINDSOR, ONT. -- A Windsor-Essex, Ont. hospital network is planning to implement a mandatory vaccination policy that could see unvaccinated staff members placed on unpaid leave or let go.

All employees, staff, students and volunteers who work at any of the five Erie St. Clair Hospitals (Windsor Regional Hospital, Hôtel Dieu Grace Healthcare, Bluewater Health, Chatham Kent Health Alliance and Erie Shores HealthCare) are expected to be fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine.

If not, they will be subject to progressive policies beyond mandatory education and testing, leading to unpaid leave and/or termination for cause, hospital leadership said.

A joint letter issued by hospital health-care leaders states:

"After reviewing, examining and discussing our local condition…the former Erie-St. Clair LHIN have collectively agreed to implement a progressive plan to ensure that all employees, credentialed staff and volunteers (not including those with an accommodation for medical exemption or under the Ontario Human Rights Code to full vaccination), will be subject to progressive policies beyond mandatory education and testing, leading to unpaid leave and/or termination for cause.'

Mandatory vaccination for new staff will also be implemented by all hospitals to support this effort.

“It’s a very difficult decision to make and all of the hospitals struggled with this decision,” said President and CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital, David Musyj. “Time is of the essence, we can’t play around with this any longer. We’ve got to get staff vaccinated to 100 per cent.”

Musyj reports 94 per cent of their staff are fully vaccinated.

Chatham-Kent Health Alliance says 87 per cent or staff have declared their vaccination status. Of those, 86 per cent are fully vaccinated with roughly 50 people of those single dosed.

Officials at Bluewater Health tell CTV News they don’t have exact vaccination data from employees at this point but say 133 staff members have opted-in for the current 'testing' program out of a staff of 1,800 people.

Erie Shores says they are “still in the process of gathering vaccine declarations from our staff.”

A total of 86 per cent of staff members at Hotel Dieu Grace Healthcare are vaccinated. Officials add there are around 150 employees who have either not disclosed their vaccination status or are not vaccinated.

“We need to do everything possible to continue to safeguard our patients, families, communities and those who provide their care. We are grateful to all those who have already been vaccinated. It is our best defense against this virus and the best effort to lessen the impact of a fourth wave," the statement goes on to say.

When the policy will come into place remains to be confirmed. However, each hospital is expected to announce a deadline for all impacted employees.

“I do believe this is the right thing to do to protect all of us. Our patients and our families deserve the best protection that we can provide and I believe our community is going to take comfort in knowing that their care teams have been vaccinated,” said Lori Marshall, President and CEO of CKHA.