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Cincinnati-Area Hospitals To Require COVID Vaccine For Employees

covid vaccine

All six Cincinnati-area hospital systems will require employees to be vaccinated against COVID before the end of the year. TriHealth CEO Mark Clement says medical workers aren't immune from the coronavirus.

"Many of our institutions in recent weeks, as a result of this highly contagious transmissible variant, have seen an uptick in our own team members and our own workforce becoming infected, being quarantined and unable to care for our patients," he says.

Clement says the decision comes on the heels of an Ohio Hospital Association recommendation to require vaccinations.

Debbie Hayes, CEO of the Christ Hospital Health Network, says there isn't necessarily a "huge uptick" in infection among her hospital workers. "We know there is tremendous community transmission out there because not everyone is vaccinated. What we are doing is taking a step to make sure that we have a strong and resilient workforce that can care for patients regardless of why they come to get care."

Hospital leaders say they don't know how many employees are already vaccinated. The mandate will apply to everyone who works at a facility connected to a hospital system, including outpatient clinics, surgical centers and other care facilities.

The hospital systems, UC Health, Cincinnati Children's, St. Elizabeth, Mercy Health, TriHealth and Christ, under the umbrella of the Health Collaborative, have been cooperating since the beginning of the pandemic.

St. Elizabeth Physicians CEO Dr. Bob Pritchard says they all feel they're on solid ground, legally, to require employees to get the shots, with Department of Justice opinions backing such mandates.

"Half of our employees are probably applauding this morning and half are probably booing us," Pritchard says. "It's obviously a concern that associates could leave us. I think it helps us that we're doing this together. We're sending a unified message to our community that we all find this very important for both the safety of our patients, the safety of our associates and the health of our community."

Hayes says vaccine requirements are nothing new for hospitals. "We have all required the flu vaccine for probably more than 10 years. There are a number of vaccinations that we require for people prior to their employment in any of our organizations. And the reason for that is on behalf of the safety of the patients we serve."

Hospital leaders say there will be exemptions for deeply held religious beliefs, and if an employee's doctor recommends against it.

The deadline varies from system to system, but the requirement applies to all employees.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.