Providence Health & Services Alaska says all of its thousands employees must be fully-vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of September or follow additional rules.
Providence is Alaska’s largest hospital and largest private employer. It’s among a growing number of health care organizations requiring staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Providence Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Bernstein said it’s a critical step as the highly contagious delta variant spreads, and nearly all of the hospital’s COVID patients are unvaccinated.
“The higher we have levels of vaccination in our workforce — in our caregivers — the better we will protect that workforce from acquiring infection, spreading it to other caregivers or even potentially exposing patients,” he said.
Providence Alaska employs roughly 5,000 people. Nearly 70% are vaccinated so far, said Bernstein.
Those who do not get vaccinated, according to a Friday statement from Providence must sign a refusal form “and follow additional protocols, such as mandatory vaccine-related education/discussions and/or other infection prevention requirements in accordance with ministry policy.”
Providence Alaska is part of a multi-state Catholic health organization that recently announced new COVID-19 vaccine policies.
Last month, Southcentral Foundation and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium also announced their staff must get vaccinated against COVID-19.
As coronavirus cases rise, ANTHC and other hospitals have started putting some COVID restrictions back in place too.
Starting Saturday, Providence will no longer allow visitors in the emergency department, said Bernstein. There are a few exceptions, like if the patient is a child, he said.
Then, starting Monday, patients staying in the hospital — outside of the ER — can have just one daily visitor, instead of two.
“The amount of people you have coming into the building, the likelihood that someone coming in to visit is infected increases,” he said. “So that’s the reason we’re reducing visitation.”
Providence also said its universal face mask requirement remains in effect, and it’s reinstating the policy in all non-patient care settings. And, it’s banning any large indoor gatherings and non-essential business travel “until the organization has a better understanding of the latest wave of COVID-19.”