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WVU Medicine, Mon Health optimistic about staff complying with vaccine mandates

MORGANTOWN — President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates have garnered some negative response among health care workers across the country, so The Dominion Post contacted WVU Medicine and Mon Health System to see how their staffs have responded to their mandates issued before Biden’s announcement.

Both systems expressed optimism about the vast majority of their employees complying.

Biden earlier this month called for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to write a rule requiring all companies with 100 or more employees to require vaccinations or weekly COVID tests for their employees.

Also, the White House says, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is taking action to require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, including but not limited to hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings and home health agencies.

News reports of negative reactions across the country sprung up after that. One of the most prominent was at the Lewis County General Hospital in New York, which announced it was suspending delivery of babies because six nurses initially quit while seven others refused to get vaccinated in response to the state mandate. Follow-up news reports said 10 more employees quit and another 13 refused to get vaccinated.

In Michigan, the Michigan Nurses Association said it encourages everyone to get vaccinated. But while Michigan Medicine has a vaccine mandate, the union’s contract with Michigan Medicine makes vaccines voluntary.

And a Sept. 13 report in Michigan Bridge said, “But the Michigan Nurses Association remains opposed to mandates, saying they will drive vaccine-hesitant nurses to quit rather than submit to inoculation. The union contends such decisions are best decided democratically by health care workers themselves and need to be subject to collective bargaining.”

National Review cited a survey of University of Cincinnati Medical Center nurses conducted by the Ohio Nurses Association in August that found that 136 out of 456 nurses who responded said they would quit rather than get vaccinated.

WVU Medicine and Mon Health issued their employee mandates Aug. 23, the same day the West Virginia Hospital Association announced support for mandatory vaccines for all hospital and health system employees. WVUM set an Oct. 31 deadline for all employees; Mon Health’s is Nov. 1.

The Dominion Post asked both systems if they’ve seen any response, good or bad, to the mandates. We asked if any employees had left, and if so, how many and from what types of positions.

Neither system offered specifics.

Mon Health President and CEO David Goldberg said, “We are educating our colleagues on the science, medical outcomes and realities of the pandemic for the vaccinated and non-vaccinated. Our Mon Health physicians have also elected to educate colleagues across our system of why they are so supportive of vaccinations and to answer any questions our staff may have.

“As a whole,” Goldberg said, “our providers are more than 95% vaccinated. That alone says why we should vaccinate to mitigate spread and reduce severe symptoms from COVID-19.”

He concluded, “To date we have seen some colleagues start submitting their medical or religious exemption rationale and also a significant increase in vaccinations by community, patients and colleagues.”

A WVU Medicine spokesperson provided this statement: “Prior to the announcement of our vaccine requirement, approximately 60-65% of the 26,000 employees of the WVU Health System had received the vaccine.

“We understand that there are some employees who have reservations about receiving it,” WVUM said. “To that end, we are doing everything we can to connect them to resources that can help answer their questions or address their concerns. Many of our senior leaders have also been going ‘door-to-door’ by reaching out to employees with concerns and connecting them with WVU Medicine specialists in infectious diseases and maternal-fetal medicine to answer their questions.

“Since announcing our requirement, we relaunched employee vaccination clinics, and we’ve seen a very steady number of staff getting the vaccine. While some people across the health system will ultimately — and unfortunately — choose to leave and will cite the vaccine as the deciding factor, we believe that number will be small and that the vast majority of our employees will receive the vaccine by the Oct. 31 deadline.”

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