“I cannot imagine passing any worse law than that,” said John Goodnow, CEO of Benefis Health in Great Falls. “Imagine if that would have been passed back when we were fighting polio, or smallpox before that.”
Those who back the law said it’s an issue of personal rights.
Dr. Greg Tierney, chief medical officer of Benefis, said he’s concerned about potential rancor between vaccinated and unvaccinated staff members as their workload rises with the caseload.
“You have the people who have been vaccinated looking at the person next to him who’s choosing not to,” Tierney said. “Whereas, they were literally brethren in arms.”
No vaccine mandates increases staff shortages
“Wearing a mask whenever you’re in our facilities, that helps, but being able to vaccinate everyone would help more,” Nelson said.
In Billings, Montana’s most populated city, the Billings Clinic’s intensive care unit reached capacity the first week of August and officials started shifting patients to overflow beds. At that time, roughly 60% of the system’s employees reported being vaccinated.
Hospital leaders are hosting weekly town halls to answer clinic workers’ vaccine questions or try to dispel myths in between caring for a growing number of covid patients.
“Knowing there are solutions out there that can help prevent this from happening, like simple vaccination, makes you frustrated,” said Dr. Fernando Caceres, an intensivist in Billings Clinic’s ICU.
In some states, no vaccine means no job
“Trinity Health has counted our own colleagues and patients in the too-high coronavirus death toll,” Mike Slubowski, the organization’s president and CEO, said in the announcement. “Now that we have a proven way to prevent covid-19 deaths, we are not hesitating to do our part.”
How Trinity’s policy will work in Oregon, where the three-decade-old law prevents vaccine requirements, is unclear
“This new safety measure is necessary to stop delta from causing severe illness among our first line of defense: our doctors, nurses, medical students and frontline health care workers,” Brown said in the statement. Before Brown’s announcement, Kaiser Permanente, a national health system based in California, had said all of its employees must be vaccinated against covid — even those in Oregon. (KHN, which produces California Healthline, is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)
After Brown’s announcement, KP spokesperson Michael Foley said those who don’t get the vaccine in Oregon will undergo weekly testing; employees in other states, however, will have to apply for medical or religious exemptions or find a new job if they refuse to be vaccinated.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.