DENVER — Many Colorado hospital employees are required to have a COVID-19 vaccination or face potential termination.
Several Colorado healthcare providers issued vaccination requirements earlier this year, setting fall deadlines for employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"While no hospital wants to lose an employee at this time, it’s important that we are keeping this staff safe and moving forward with the plans as they are put in place," Cara Welch, senior communications director for the Colorado Hospital Association, said.
In addition to the company requirements, a mandate from the Biden administration requires health care workers nationwide to get vaccinated. That mandate applies to health care facilities receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid.
Different institutions have different disciplinary actions for vaccinated employees. On October 21, the state board of health will meet to discuss and consider amendments to the emergency rule. Healthcare workers are proposing facilities be required to meet a 90% vaccination threshold instead of 100%. The Colorado Hospital Association says this will provide room for medical and religious exemptions.
UCHealth has terminated 119 employees in Colorado for not complying with the hospital system’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which requires either vaccination or an approved religious or medical exemption.
Spokesperson Dan Weaver confirmed the figure Monday, noting it’s less than 0.5% of UCHealth’s 26,500 employees statewide. Out of the 119 staff members, 54 were in Denver and 33 were in northern Colorado.
Terminated employees are welcome to re-apply for their jobs if they get the COVID-19 vaccine, Weaver said.
"No hospital wants to lose valued employees, but we know vaccines save lives and increase safety for everyone. We appreciate our staff members and providers who have chosen to be vaccinated to protect their family members, coworkers and our patients. Our dedicated health care workers are improving the health of Colorado’s communities during what has been an extremely difficult time for everyone in health care," Weaver said in a statement to 9NEWS.
UCHealth was the first Denver-area hospital to announce the vaccination requirement for employees, providers, volunteers and partners. The deadline was Friday.
Kaiser Permanente said more than 99% of its Colorado workforce has responded to its vaccine requirement – either by being fully vaccinated or submitting a request for a qualifying exemption.
Kaiser Permanente announced its vaccination requirement on Aug. 2, according to a company spokesperson. The deadline was Sept. 30.
The spokesperson said employees who have not responded to the requirement have been placed on unpaid leave as of Oct. 1. They have until December 1 to get a vaccine and return to work.
"We hope none of our employees will choose to leave their jobs rather than be vaccinated, but we won’t know with certainty until then," the spokesperson said. "We will continue to work with this group of employees to allay concerns and educate them about the vaccines, their benefits, and risks."
Kaiser said they have also extended the vaccination requirement to employees of contractors, vendors, and suppliers who enter Kaiser Permanente facilities.
"We deeply appreciate the extraordinary commitment and dedication of all Kaiser Permanente employees and physicians throughout our response to the pandemic, especially those who have been serving on the front lines to fight this deadly virus," the spokesperson said. "We encourage everyone to play a role in ending the pandemic by getting the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine."
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