PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Peacehealth Southwest Medical Center is now requiring all caregivers to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
The healthcare center announced the requirement on Tuesday morning, saying all providers, students, contractors, vendors and volunteers will be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or will have to submit a qualifying medical exemption by Aug. 31. Those who remain unvaccinated will instead get regular COVID-19 tests and be required to follow additional safety protocols, such as masking and potential reassignment so they are not near patients.
“New variants of COVID-19 pose a critical threat to those unable to be vaccinated, including children and the medically vulnerable,” Bob K. Pelz, MD, PeaceHealth’s system medical director of Infection Prevention said. “It is our moral obligation to first do no harm and act for the common good. COVID-19 vaccines are proven to be the best way to protect ourselves and reduce the likelihood of harming others.”
Last month, PeaceHealth experienced an outbreak among patients and staff. Ten patients and four healthcare workers tested positive for the virus — five of whom were fully vaccinated. At the time, there was no requirement for caregivers to be vaccinated.
Now, PeaceHealth’s decision comes amid a surge of COVID-19 infections across the region and throughout the country — largely powered by the delta variant.
“We’ve gone from just 24 patients across our units in PeaceHealth on July 16 to 107 this morning. It’s increasing every single day. We had 20 new admissions overnight. This is a public health emergency that requires immediate action,” PeaceHealth’s Chief Physician Executive Dr. Doug Koekkoek said. “Though nearly 80% of PeaceHealth caregivers have already been vaccinated, the rise in hospitalizations in our communities is a stark reminder that we are facing a public health emergency and we must do more.”
On Monday, Kaiser Permanente announced it’s requiring its health care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but this does not apply to those working in Oregon.
A 1989 Oregon law makes it the only state in the country where it is illegal to require vaccinations. Other states with Kaiser Permanente health care workers — including Washington — can require workers to get vaccinated.
As these cases continue to rise with the highly infectious delta variant, various institutions are making the decision to require proof of vaccination.
In addition to medical centers and government buildings, restaurants are now giving mandates as well. Up in Seattle, at least 60 bars and restaurants as of Friday began requiring customers to prove they have been vaccinated as a requirement to eat or dine inside.