Essentia joins healthcare organizations demanding vaccine for employees – InForum

FARGO – Essentia Health joins the growing list of health systems that require employees to be vaccinated to protect against COVID-19 as the highly transmissible delta variant continues to spread.

Essentia announced Wednesday, August 4 that all of its 13,800 employees, including 2,400 in the region serving Fargo, were to receive their first dose of vaccine by October 1 and their second in a two-dose series by October 1. November.

Dr William Heegaard, president of the West Essentia region, called the step “an important and impactful decision” which was taken after reviewing the medical literature, epidemiological studies and risk assessments.

“We are committed to the safety of our patients and the safety of our employees,” he said. “This will apply to all employees, including remote workers, volunteers, students” and anyone involved in serving patients.

“The vaccination process offers the greatest protection,” Heegaard said, noting that the mandate will apply to those who have already been infected with the coronavirus. “At this point, we are making no exceptions for natural immunity. “

However, exceptions will be made for medical reasons, as directed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or for religious reasons. These exemptions apply to Essentia’s long-standing influenza vaccine requirement for employees.

Essentia joins other healthcare systems in adopting an employee vaccination mandate, including Sanford Health, Mayo, Fairview and Allina.

“No one takes it lightly,” Heegaard said, predicting other health care providers would follow suit.

As of mid-March, the latest tally available, 87% of Essentia’s doctors had been vaccinated, along with 84% of advanced practitioners and 70% of other employees.

“It’s a good percentage,” said Heegaard, adding that he was confident Essentia would be able to close the gap.

It is possible that some employees will choose to quit rather than get the shot, Heegaard said, based on his experience requiring flu shots. “We know that some people can leave,” he said. “We are committed to the safety of our patients. “

Sanford announced on July 22 that all employees must be vaccinated by November 1 or risk losing their jobs.

Sanford employees who are not vaccinated by November 1 will be suspended for 60 days. At the end of the suspension, any unvaccinated employee will be considered to have voluntarily resigned. Sanford will allow certain exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

“Nothing is more important to our goal as caregivers than ensuring a safe environment for employees and those who seek our care,” said Dr. Doug Griffin, vice president and medical officer of health at Sanford. “It’s the right thing to do for our staff and for our patients and residents. “

The decision to require vaccination to protect against COVID-19 was taken with care, Griffin said, and included comments from patients and residents.

“We have needed the flu shot for many years and it is a natural next step to further protect patients and staff from a dangerous virus,” Griffin said.

Last week, the state of California became the first in the country to require all state employees to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly tests. The vaccine requirement also applies to all healthcare workers and those working in “high-risk collective establishments”.

Federal courts have upheld hospital vaccine warrants for employees, including a Houston case earlier this year.

Dr Bill Heegaard is President of Essentia Health-West.

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