MONTREAL -- As the Oct. 15 vaccine mandate looms, more than 7,000 health-care workers in Quebec are still not vaccinated against COVID-19, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced Tuesday. 

And that only includes those who are in direct contact with patients. In total, 15,000 workers in the province's health system haven't met the province's deadline.

The health minister revealed the numbers during a news conference about third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine that will be made available to seniors living in residences. 

Dubé has previously announced that all health-care workers must be vaccinated by Oct. 15 or face suspension without pay. 

With just over two weeks to go before the new measure takes effect, the ministry of health will initiate a "reorganization" of health-care services to respond to a potential lack of staff in hospitals, including possibly delaying surgeries. 

"Unfortunately, all things are being looked at right now because there is a there is a premise that we want the patient to go into hospital and be served by people that are vaccinated," Dubé said Tuesday.

He said patients might not get health care "at the time or place that they would like to" in the reorganization of services, should there be a dramatic loss of staff. 

By Oct. 1, the health minister said, he will request a list from the heads of health-care insititutions on what should be done in a worst-case scenario. 

"So I'm just saying let's see what will be the adjustment that we need to do, but I'm asking people to get vaccinated right now."

He added that health-care workers who get vaccinated Tuesday, for example, will be allowed to go back to work in about 30 days' time if they follow the schedule for their second dose. 

The province is already grappling with a nurse shortage and is trying to close the gaps with big bonuses to the tune of $1 billion. 

Bonuses of up to $15,000 will be offered to new recruits and workers who go from a part-time to a full-time schedule as part of the government's plan announced last week. 

Approximately 4,300 nurses are needed across the province -- a crisis worsened by the pandemic and where poor working conditions and overtime shifts have become the norm. 

--With files from The Canadian Press