Health officials explain decision to mandate vaccines for employees
"When it comes down to it, we're ultimately responsible for the safety of our patients."
LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Health officials from eight prominent Nebraska hospitals estimate that between 80 to 90 percent of their staff have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
In a few short months, vaccinations will be required for ALL health care employees working at those health care systems.
“This group has been united in saying it’s time that we move forward,” Dr. John Trapp of Bryan Health said.
“When it comes down to it, we’re ultimately responsible for the safety of our patients,” Dr. Donald Schmidt of Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals said.
One question on the minds of many: Will exemptions to the vaccine mandate be granted? And what are the consequences if an employee declines a vaccine?
At this early stage of the mandate, hospital leaders were not able to provide much detail.
“Each institution is going to develop their internal policies on how to look at exemptions and then what the consequences might be for that,” Dr. Stephen Doran of Midwest Surgical Hospital said. “I think some of those policies are yet to be determined.”
Doran acknowledged that there would likely be regular testing for employees with approved vaccine exemptions and restrictions on where they could move in the hospital.
Dr. Harris Frankel, the chief medical officer at the University of Nebraska Medical Center specifically mentioned that general philosophical beliefs or socio-political beliefs would “not qualify” as valid reasons for an employee to decline a vaccination.
“We will take each case on a case-by-case basis and address the merits of each individual request,” Frankel said.
Some hospitals, including Bryan Health, say they polled their unvaccinated employees to learn why they had not been vaccinated.
“Concerns with vaccine safety, personal preferences, concerns for untoward effects or reactions, so a variety of different reasons why,” Trapp said.
Health leaders say the impact of the delta variant across the country and here in Nebraska was a big factor in this decision.
“We’re seeing in other states, employees are increasingly calling in sick, and we’re all seeing that ourselves,” Dr. Cary Ward of CHI Health said. “We’ve had a marked increase. We have to have our employees at work.”
“We don’t have great treatment options for this virus,” Trapp said. “We do have great prevention that’s been developed and we need to utilize that in the full extent. It’s our best resource.”
Health officials confirmed that there is a hard deadline for hospital leaders and staff to be vaccinated. While specific dates vary, all will be required to be fully vaccinated by November 1st.