Summit County health facilities are still tweaking the details of their mandatory vaccination policies


Dr. Wyatt Hall is working May 5, 2020 inside the emergency room at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco. All facility staff and staff are now mandated to receive a vaccine in accordance with new state health board emergency rules.
Jason Connolly Archives / Summit Daily News

On August 30, the state board of health announced that it was approving vaccine requirements for staff in healthcare facilities and hospitals, and nearly a week and a half later, many facilities in Local health are still working on the details of how they will meet these new guidelines.

According to to a state press release, about 30% of the state’s healthcare workers remain unvaccinated. Under the new guidelines, all staff interacting with people seeking medical care must receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The announcement came on heels of the United States Food and Drug Administration’s decision to fully approve the Pfizer vaccine.

The health care facilities that must comply with the new requirement are those described in a revised statute from 2017, some of which include hospitals, outpatient surgical centers, birthing centers, home care agencies, acute treatment units, community clinics, and community mental health centers. Facilities over which the board of health does not have authority include health care practitioners or staff, primary care offices, and emergency care settings.

Centura Health spokesperson Brent Boyer said the healthcare organization was following the new guidelines at its sites, including St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco.

“To comply with regulations, we have activated our COVID-19 vaccination policy which applies to our incredible 21,000 caregivers, doctors, students, volunteers, entrepreneurs and board members,” wrote Boyer in an email.

The state board of health press release cited the rise of the delta variant as one of the factors contributing to the approval of these warrants, and Boyer said the same in his email.

“With the increase in the delta variant and community spread, we remain hopeful that more people in our communities will be vaccinated,” he wrote.

So far, chief executive Lee Boyles said the organization has not mandated the vaccines itself, but has instead focused on encouraging staff to get vaccinated.

“From the start, our goal has been to strongly encourage immunization for all of our caregivers by providing them with factual information and data about the vaccine and its effectiveness,” Boyles wrote in an email. “More recently, we offered an appreciation bonus of $ 500 to each employee who has been fully immunized, and we have now seen approximately 80% of Centura employees get a full immunization. We know that imposing something generally does not impact an employee’s will or desire to do it.

As to the successful roll-out of the program, Boyles said staff responses have been “generally positive” and that he is not aware of any staff who have left or expressed a desire to leave due to the state vaccine mandate.

“We value all of our caregivers and certainly don’t want anyone leaving our organization because of the tenure,” he said.

Beyond the local hospital, a few other local health care facilities are still tweaking the details of their policies. Dr Kathleen Cowie, chief medical officer of the Summit Community Care Clinic, wrote in an email that the clinic plans to mandate vaccines for all employees who come into contact with patients from October 1, but the team is working always on the details for the rest of the staff. She declined to answer further questions.

Michael Holten, director of marketing and experience for Vail Health, also said the healthcare facility is still working on the final language of its policy.

Other community leaders, including Ebert Family Clinic in Frisco and Summit Dental Group in Dillon, said they didn’t need to activate a new policy because their staff were already vaccinated.

“All 12 of our staff made a voluntary decision to get vaccinated at the start of the year,” wrote Dr Bryan Hilton of Summit Dental in an email. “Fortunately, we did not have to face this difficult and unfortunate situation.”

Some healthcare facilities did not return a request for comment, such as Ten Mile Dental and Innovative Family Dental.

According to a press release, the state board of health will meet again in October to review the rule in a regular session. The new requirement was initially approved by emergency rules.

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