Wednesday, 22 September 2021 19:12

FirstHealth mandates vaccines for employees, volunteers

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FirstHealth mandates vaccines for employees, volunteers NCDHHS

PINEHURST — FirstHealth of the Carolinas announced Wednesday that it has instituted a mandatory vaccination policy.


The new policy requires all employees, medical staff, volunteers, students, agency staff and vendors to receive COVID-19 vaccines by Nov. 19, according to a press release.

Mickey Foster, FirstHealth CEO, said the policy is in the best interests of the staff and reflects the medical system’s core policy: To care for people.

“We are committed to the health and safety of our FirstHealth family and the communities we serve. Requiring COVID-19 vaccines is the right decision for our system, but it’s not one we take lightly,” Foster said in a press release.  

“We have offered vaccine incentives to our employees for several weeks and waited until at least one vaccine was fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” Foster continued. “We were also able to hear directly from our employees through a systemwide survey and series of employee focus groups held across the FirstHealth system. We know this is the right decision for FirstHealth, and we want to do everything we can to bring this terrible pandemic to an end.” 

Chief Medical Officer Jenifir Bruno said in the release that data on vaccine effectiveness “is clear.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that vaccines are “effective” at preventing COVID-19 and “protect people from getting sick or severely ill … and might also help protect people around them.”

“We know that the available COVID-19 vaccines prevent the most serious outcomes from this virus, and we have several months of patient data to back this up,” Bruno said. “We hope this decision to require vaccines for the FirstHealth family will also spur others in our community to roll up their sleeves and get their shots. It takes all of us working together to return to normal.” 

FirstHealth is the latest Health System in the state to require vaccinations — Atrium Health, Cone Health, Duke University Health System, Novant Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health made their decisions in July.

A spokesman for Scotland Health Care System said that a mandate was put in place last month, giving employees until Oct. 31 to be fully vaccinated.

There has been some pushback from employees in the private health sector, as well as the public service sector, to mandatory vaccinations.

Health care workers protested mandates in Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Smithfiled last month.

Bridget Smith, who works for Cone Health, told WXII that although she was vaccinated, she opposed the mandate and believes it should be a personal choice.

"We're already short, so if they fire people, if people retire early, how are the hospitals going to function? We just want them to have our backs. We just want them to hear us,” Smith told the Triad-based television station.

Gov. Roy Cooper called the protests “so disappointing.”

“If you are a health care provider, working closely with patients and around patients who are often sick, it’s your responsibility to get a vaccine,” Cooper said. “I appreciate their right to protest and their First Amendment right to protest, but I think that these health care facilities have made the right call in requiring employees to get vaccinated.”

The governor added that he hoped they would be convinced that “it’s the right thing to do.”

Novant Health announced Tuesday that more than 98% of its 35,000 employees were either fully vaccinated or had received at least the first dose of the vaccine. Those with only one dose have until Oct. 15 to be in full compliance.

The system also said that around 375 employees have been suspended for not being in compliance and have five unpaid days to comply or be terminated.

“Novant Health team members who have been granted a medical or religious exemption are required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing, wear N95 respirators masks or other appropriate PPE, and eye-wear protection while working on Novant Health premises,” reads the press release. “These added safety measures are in place to ensure patient and team member safety and preserve staffing levels.”

Part of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan is to require vaccines “for workers in most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement,” according to WhiteHouse.gov.

Biden also announced earlier this month that companies with 100 or more employees will be required to make sure workers are vaccinated or provide weekly negative results. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is developing a rule to require those employers to “provide paid time off for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are under the weather post-vaccination.”

Governmental lockdowns and vaccine mandates have led to violent protests in Australia in recent days.

Closer to home, employees with the city of Rockingham have until Oct. 15 to get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing on their own time and their own dime.

Rockingham, Hamlet and Richmond Community College are offering financial incentives for workers to take the jab. However, as of Sept. 8, only Rockingham had made vaccines mandatory.

Although no mandate is in place in Charlotte, media outlets reported earlier this month that the city is requiring employees to show proof of vaccination.

The possibility of a requirement led members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fraternal Order of Police, Charlotte Firefighters Association and the UE150 Charlotte Chapter to send a letter to city leaders on Sept. 2 opposing a mandate.

The CDC does admit that “vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing infection.”

From July 24-Aug. 23, 87 of the 752 cases in Richmond County were breakthrough cases involving patients who were fully vaccinated, according to interim Health Director Cheryl Speight. To be considered fully vaccinated, an individual has to be two weeks past the final dose of the vaccine.

There had been 28 breakthrough cases from July 1-21.

On Wednesday, 11 of the 66 COVID patients in FirstHealth hospitals were fully vaccinated.

 

 

 

 

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