Scott Eisen/CVS Health via AP Images
Written by Breanna Hardy
One area hospital is cracking down on Covid-19 vaccine requirements, and threatening the boot to those who don’t comply by Sept. 21.
Trinity Health, parent company of Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno, announced that it will require its 117,000 employees to receive a Covid-19 vaccine or face termination. The Michigan-based health system operates 91 hospitals in 22 states nationwide. Saint Agnes is the only hospital in California under the health system.
“Our No. 1 priority is the safety of our patients, residents, colleagues, physicians and communities. We know that the COVID-19 vaccine is the single most effective tool in slowing, and even stopping, the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives. Our health system’s Core Value of Safety also calls on us to do everything we can to protect ourselves, our colleagues, our patients and our communities. As health care professionals, we are responsible for doing everything we can to end the pandemic and save lives in our communities,” said Walter E. Egerton, MD, Saint Agnes Medical Center Chief Medical Officer.
To be fully vaccinated by Sept. 21 gives employees about three weeks to receive their first vaccine. Employees must submit proof of vaccination, and if a booster shot is required by then, employees must also submit proof of a booster. Employees can request exemptions for religious or health reasons, but the requests must be formal, documented and approved. If staff do not meet the criteria, they will face termination.
Trinity Health has encouraged vaccination among its employees since December 2020 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first vaccine for emergency use.
It joins several other health systems across the country that have recently instituted such a requirement.
Trinity Health hopes to close the gap on those without a vaccine, stating an estimated 75% of employees have already received at least one dose.
“Safety is one of our Core Values. We feel it is important that we take every step available to us to stop the spread and protect those around us – especially the most vulnerable in our communities who cannot be vaccinated including young children and the more than 10 million people who are immunocompromised,” said Trinity Health President and CEO Mike Slubowski. “Over the last year, Trinity Health has counted our own colleagues and patients in the too-high coronavirus death toll. Now that we have a proven way to prevent COVID-19 deaths, we are not hesitating to do our part.”
In a March report by the California Health Care Foundation, 49% of health care workers surveyed in February strongly favored the state mandating that all health care workers get a Covid-19 vaccine, and 24% declared they were somewhat in favor. This is up from a December 2020 survey, where 37% strongly favored and 28% somewhat favored a state mandate. The survey included 1,202 health care workers in California.
Other Central Valley hospitals have not yet required the vaccination for employees, but strongly recommend it.
“As we have throughout the pandemic, Community Health System will continue to follow the guidance from California Department of Public Health, Fresno County Department of Public Health and CDC on COVID-19 safety protocols, including healthcare workers vaccinations. We continue to strongly encourage all who are able — employees, physicians, partners, patients, visitors and the public — to get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect our frontline workers and our community,” said Dr. Tom Utecht, Senior Vice President, System Chief Medical Officer of Community Health System.
A spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente in Fresno said that three quarters of its workforce in northern California has already been vaccinated. Adventist Health is also among Central Valley hospitals who are recommending the vaccine, but not requiring it.