By Debra Moore
A deadline is looming this week for healthcare professionals. According to a state order: All workers who provide services or work in healthcare facilities must have their first dose of a one-dose regimen or their second dose of a two-dose regimen by Sept. 30.
The chief executive officers of the three local health care districts are working to ensure their employees comply with the state mandate. Doug McCoy of Eastern Plumas Health Care, Jo Dee Read of Plumas District Hospital, and Shawn McKenzie of Seneca Healthcare District, didn’t share specific numbers but said most of their employees are meeting the state guidelines — to be vaccinated or to provide medical or religious exemptions. None anticipate staffing shortages because of the requirement.
Seneca issued the following statement: “Our staff has diligently been working to confirm that our facility is in full compliance with the order. As per CDPH guidelines, Seneca will continue to keep records of vaccination status or test results for employees. As a healthcare organization, we realize the value of a vaccinated community. We also recognize the value of an individual’s sincerely held beliefs as a construct of both our constitution and the inalienable rights of each person.”
That’s the juggling act that the hospital leaders face. In some professions, the option of frequent testing exists, but that option isn’t available to healthcare workers.
When asked if there would be repercussions for not meeting the state guidelines — such as employees losing their jobs — the CEOs declined to be specific, but emphasized that they were working with employees to be compliant.
Details of the state order follow:
All workers who provide services or work in healthcare facilities must have their first dose of a one-dose regimen or their second dose of a two-dose regimen by September 30, 2021:
- Healthcare facilities include the following:
- General acute care hospitals
- Skilled nursing facilities (including subacute facilities)
- Intermediate care facilities
- Acute psychiatric hospitals
- Adult day health care centers
- Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) and PACE Centers
- Ambulatory surgery centers
- Chemical dependency recovery hospitals
- Clinics and doctor offices (including behavioral health, surgical)
- Congregate living health facilities
- Dialysis centers
- Hospice facilities
- Pediatric day health and respite care facilities
- Residential substance use treatment and mental health treatment facilities
A “worker” refers to all paid and unpaid individuals who work in indoor settings where care is provided to patients, or patients have access for any purpose. This includes workers serving in health care or other health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or SARS-CoV-2 airborne aerosols.
Workers include, but are not limited to, nurses, nursing assistants, physicians, technicians, therapists, phlebotomists, pharmacists, students and trainees, contractual staff not employed by the health care facility, and persons not directly involved in patient care, but who could be exposed to infectious agents that can be transmitted in the health care setting (e.g., clerical, dietary, environmental services, laundry, security, engineering and facilities management, administrative, billing, and volunteer personnel).
Workers may be exempt from the vaccination requirements only upon providing the operator of the facility a declination form, signed by the individual stating either of the following: the worker is declining vaccination based on religious beliefs, or the worker is excused from receiving any COVID-19 vaccine due to qualifying medical reasons.
To be eligible for a Qualified Medical Reasons exemption the worker must also provide to their employer a written statement signed by a physician, nurse practitioner, or other licensed medical professional practicing under the license of a physician stating that the individual qualifies for the exemption (but the statement should not describe the underlying medical condition or disability) and indicating the probable duration of the worker’s inability to receive the vaccine (or if the duration is unknown or permanent, so indicate).
If an operator of a facility listed above deems a worker to have met the requirements of an exemption, the unvaccinated exempt worker must meet the following requirements when entering or working in such facility:
Test for COVID-19 with either PCR or an antigen test. Testing must occur twice weekly for unvaccinated exempt workers in acute health care and long-term care settings, and once weekly for such workers in other health care settings.
Wear a surgical mask or higher-level respirator approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), such as an N95 filtering facepiece respirator, at all times while in the facility.