Hospitals, schools comply with order

Hundreds from Peninsula agencies receive vaccine exemption

Hospital and school districts on the North Olympic Peninsula reported being in full compliance Monday, the deadline for Gov. Jay Inslee’s statewide mandate to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or to receive an exemption — or be fired.

There were 441 workers who are staying unvaccinated for religious or medical reasons, Peninsula hospitals and schools reported.

They included the Port Angeles-based Olympic Medical Center hospital district, where 259 employees — 16 percent — of 1,640 workers sought and received exemptions from inoculations at the largest employer with the largest hospital in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for both counties, was disappointed healthcare workers sought exemptions if they did not have a medical reason, but she said she was encouraged by the large number of healthcare workers who are vaccinated.

“The number of religions truly opposed to vaccination is very small,” said Berry, who was featured Monday in a New York Times story on the crisis in staffing, authority and community support for health departments across the country.

“That should be a relatively uncommon exemption,” Berry said.

She attributed health care workers’ reticence on widespread misnformation about the COVID-19 innoculation, adding they are already required to take other vaccines.

Peninsula Daily News emailed questions Monday to OMC, Forks Community Hospital and Jefferson Healthcare hospital in Port Townsend, and to school districts in Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Sequim, Forks and Neah Bay.

The questions asked how many employees had been fully vaccinated, how many were exempted for religious or medical reasons, and if they were medical or nonmedical workers, or teachers or nonteachers, including paraeducators.

Other questions asked how many employees had been terminated for not getting vaccinated by the Monday deadline set for healthcare employees and for workers in education settings.

Olympic Medical Center

Jennifer Burkhardt, OMC legal counsel and human resources officer, said 84 percent of employees were fully vaccinated as of Monday, while “a handful” are in the process of getting completely inoculated.

Nine refused the vaccine and had not received an exemption as of Monday, she said.

“Those employees have been removed from the work schedule, and we are working with each of them individually to determine next steps,” Burkhardt said.

Those not vaccinated by Monday have until Dec. 31 to provide a proof of vaccination or exemption, Burkhardt said.

Exempted healthcare workers must abide by safety measures, including weekly COVID-19 testing, that follow state Department of Health recommendations tailored to where they work at the facility.

Jefferson Healthcare hospital

Of 800 employees, 770 are vaccinated, leaving 30, or 4 percent, not inoculated, spokesperson Amy Yaley said.

The hospital has granted 22 religious exemptions and eight medical exemptions.

Twenty-three exempted individuals are doctors, nurses and other medical professionals while seven are not in medical positions, Yaley said.

The hospital granted 22 religious exemptions and eight medical exemptions, of which 23 cover medical positions and seven non-medical, she said.

“We have terminated one provider who has not worked with us for over a year,” Yaley said.

Yaley said the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA) prevents disclosure of who among hospital staff is vaccinated and who is not, to the disappointment of some patients.

“We have patients who call and want to know if everyone on their surgery team or in their provider office is vaccinated,” she said. “We can’t answer those questions when they call us.”

Forks Community Hospital

A half-dozen employees at Forks Community Hospital on the West End — a geographic area of major concentration of the coronavirus, Berry has said — are no longer working at the facility as a result of Inslee’s mandate, CEO Heidi Anderson said.

“We are losing six employees who come from across the organization,” she said.

“We are 100 percent compliant with the governor’s mandate.

“I am declining to comment on the remainder of your inquiries as FCH is in complete compliance of the governor’s mandate.”

Port Angeles School District

Of 563 employees, 58, or 10.3 percent, are unvaccinated, spokesperson Carmen Geyer said.

Of 267 certificated staff — teachers, nurses and counselors — 18 are unvaccinated, with 15 granted exemptions, two pending vaccination or unpaid leave and one resignation.

Of 219 classified staff, 25 are unvaccinated, with 18 exemptions, five awaiting vaccine information or taking unpaid leave and one resignation.

Of 77 support staff — coaches and substitute teachers — 15 are unvaccinated, with six exemptions, eight awaiting vaccine information or taking unpaid leave and one resignation.

“As of 2 p.m., we do not have any terminations,” Geyer said.

Sequim School District

Of 411 employees, all have been vaccinated or received exemptions, spokesperson Megan Lyke said.

About 41 are unvaccinated and have had their exemptions approved, she said.

Port Townsend School District

Superintendent Linda Rosenbury said 93 percent of 184 employees had shown proof of vaccination and 7 percent had received medical or religious exemptions.

Thirteen employees received religious exemptions and one received a medical exemption.

Those exempted are tested weekly and are wellness-screened daily.

Four of 79 teachers are exempted from getting vaccinated, Rosenbury said, adding there has been no in-school transmission of the coronavirus.

“Staff are great at wearing our masks,” she said. “There are safety measures in place.”

Quillayute Valley School District

Superintendent Diana Reaume said 99.9 percent of staff at the West End school district is fully vaccinated or has been exempted.

“We will be releasing three full-time positioned employees who are out of compliance,” she said.

Of 207 employees, about 15 percent — roughly 30 workers — are exempted.

“I would say we have a few certificated teachers who qualify for accommodations and more non-certificated staff who qualify for accommodations, as outlined in the mandate,” Reaume said.

Cape Flattery School District

The Neah Bay-area district has 123 employees, of whom 114 are fully vaccinated and nine have been exempted, including one teacher and eight classified staff, Superintendent Michelle Parkin said.

No employees have been terminated as a result of the mandate, Parkin said.

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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