The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Deadlines loom for unvaccinated employees of hospitals in state
With mandatory vaccine deadlines looming, hospital officials at several major Connecticut networks said hundreds of employees still have not received their required shots.
The full picture of what that means for potential job losses remains unclear, but a top official with the YaleNew Haven Health network said they expect at least 100 employees “will part ways with us.”
Dr. Thomas Balcezak, the network’s chief clinical officer, said progress had been made to get all workers vaccinated, but as of Monday, 420 employees still had not received a dose.
Hartford HealthCare, which runs hospitals in Hartford, Bridgeport and Torrington, said as of Wednesday, 683 employees had not been vaccinated, and the deadline was Thursday. It was unclear when employees may face disciplinary action, including termination.
The employees account for 3 percent of the organization’s workforce, the remaining 97 percent of whom have received at least a first dose of vaccine, Dr. Ajay Kumar, the health care system’s chief clinical officer, said in a statement to Hearst Connecticut Media.
“All vaccines have proven to be safe and extremely effective at reducing serious illness and death,” Kumar said. “We have been working diligently to help our colleagues come to the
decision that is right for them, and hope all of our colleagues make the choice to stay within our organization.”
Stamford Health, which operates Stamford Hospital, anticipates fewer than 100 staff could face corrective actions “up to and including termination,” if they are not vaccinated by the health system’s Friday deadline, a spokesperson said.
So far, 98 percent of staff have been vaccinated, and Stamford Health believes the number of employees who face discipline “will not impact operations or patient care,” Jake Gaydos, a spokesperson for the health network, said in an email.
A spokesperson for Nuvance Health, which operates seven hospitals in western Connecticut and New York, said the organization’s deadline is at the end of the week, but did not say how many employees have yet to receive the vaccine.
Middlesex Health, which operates Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, is requiring employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1. A spokesperson said it was too early to say what percentage of staff is vaccinated.
A spokesperson for Trinity Health of New England said at least 95 percent of its 10,000 employees have submitted documentation showing they’ve been vaccinated. The health system runs St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury and Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford Springs. The health system’s parent organization announced it would require COVID-19 vaccines in July.
“Our colleagues are our most valuable resource and the goal of this initiative is vaccination not termination,” the statement from Trinity Health New England said. “We are providing education and support to those colleagues who have not yet submitted information about their vaccination status and are giving colleagues every opportunity to take action. We are optimistic that these efforts will be successful.”
While hospitals continue efforts to convince remaining employees to get vaccinated, the number of COVID-19 patients in these facilities has dropped in recent weeks. As of Tuesday, there were 250 patients hospitalized with the virus statewide, compared with a recent high of 391 on Aug. 24.
Vaccine mandates have become more common in recent weeks. President Joe Biden announced he would expand a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for nursing home workers to include hospitals and other health care facilities that receive funds through Medicare and Medicaid.
Gov. Ned Lamont has not issued a state mandate for private hospitals, but did order workers at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to be vaccinated. He also mandated vaccines for state workers, along with teachers and school staff.
Rhode Island and New York issued broader mandates in August, requiring all licensed health care workers to be vaccinated. New York required health care workers to receive at least a first dose by Monday, while Rhode Island workers have until Friday to be fully vaccinated.
The mandates led to fears of staffing shortages in both states. In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday she was prepared to deploy medically trained members of the National Guard or retired medical personnel where shortages occurred. The looming mandate prompted thousands of New York health care workers to receive a vaccine, the New York Times reported. In Rhode Island, hospitals and other health care facilities are preparing to lose some employees, the Providence Journal reported Wednesday.
Asked about the prospect of staffing shortages brought on by vaccine mandates at private hospitals, Lamont said Wednesday he hadn’t heard of any issues.
“As you know the hospitals and all the healthrelated facilities said I want everybody vaccinated. I think people are still coming in,” the governor said during a news conference.
“Look, you've got somebody with maybe symptoms of COVID, if you're going into the hospital you've gotta be treated by somebody you know is safe, so I think the overwhelming majority of people are following the rules as I understand it in all of our health care institutions.”