Mandatory employee vaccination policies coming to Hawaii’s largest health care systems

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Healthcare facilities across the state are moving forward with putting employee vaccination mandates in place, as the Delta variant continues to cause increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases across Hawaii.

The trade association for hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health agencies and hospices, the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, announced Monday that its policy will now support mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers, allowing for exceptions.

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Four of the state’s largest health care systems are making policy changes as well.

Kaiser and Adventist Health announced that employees will have until Sept. 30 to get fully vaccinated. Queen’s and Hawaii Pacific Health are giving their employees until Oct. 1.

Hawaii Pacific Health’s Executive Vice President and Chief Quality Officer Dr. Melinda Ashton said they will no longer wait for the vaccines to get full approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

“The world has changed,” Ashton said. “The war has changed as the CDC said, and so we are no longer waiting for FDA approval. We are going to go forward with the emergency use authorization, as the others who announced dates I believe are doing the same.”

The medical facilities are giving employees nearly two months to prepare for the mandate. Kaiser Permanente will require all of its employees across the nation to get the shot.

“Our employees have given their lives,” Hawaii Market, Kaiser Permanente Health Plan and Hospitals President Greg Christian said. “We don’t want this come off as now we’re putting them under additional scrutiny. There’s this huge balance we’re all working through.”

Part of the balance are the shot exemptions for those who cannot or will not get vaccinated. Queen’s and HPH said unvaccinated employees will be regularly tested for COVID-19.

The Hawaii Nurses Association President Daniel Ross said these are reasonable accommodations.

Ross said, “Personally, I strongly advocate to get vaccinated. We encourage all of our members and public to get vaccinated, but we will also advocate for those who can’t.”

Although Ross has concerns about singling out employees, he said some of the hospitals are considering a sticker system for patients to know which employees are vaccinated.

“That just raises red flags with me,” Ross said. “I’m just concern about that aspect of it. As I’ve said as a whole we’re OK with this. But there are certain details that we want to have discussion with them about, Let’s see maybe they can convince me of why that’s a reasonable way to go.”

Specifics on what will result if those policies are not followed were not immediately available.

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