Providence Alaska will require staff to be vaccinated or follow additional health protocols

Providence Alaska Medical Center.
Providence Alaska Medical Center.(KTUU)
Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 8:06 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Providence Health & Services Alaska, the state’s largest health system, announced Friday it will require its employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or follow an additional set of protocols.

The move was motivated by the rise of the delta variant of COVID-19 in Alaska, according to a statement from Providence, and the fact that unvaccinated people account for the “vast majority” of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

According to the most recent weekly update from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, 94% of all cases, 94% of all hospitalizations and 97% of all Alaska resident deaths from Jan. 1 to July 31 have been in people who were not vaccinated.

According to the statement, all of Providence’s approximately 5,000 caregivers will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and show proof of vaccination by Sept. 30. A spokesperson clarified that a caregiver is anyone who works for the health system.

“Those who do not get vaccinated must sign a declination and follow additional protocols,” the statement reads.

Those protocols will include things like mandatory vaccine-related education, and other infection prevention requirements “in accordance with ministry policy.”

Providence is part of a Catholic health organization that serves several states, including Alaska. It’s the largest private employer in the state.

“Earlier this summer, it might have felt as though we were out of the woods regarding the pandemic,” said Dr. Michael Bernstein, chief medical officer for Providence Alaska. “However, cases have started to increase again and the new Delta variant of COVID-19 has shown to be more infectious and transmissible. Our caregivers have a chance to lead by example when it comes to the health and safety of our communities.”

The announcement came a day after a crowd gathered in front of the Alaska Native Medical Center to protest vaccine requirements made last month by the Southcentral Foundation and Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Those organizations made vaccination a requirement for employment, and workers have until Oct. 15 to comply.

According to the statement from Providence Alaska, the decision to implement the vaccine policy was “reached after careful deliberation, including ethical discernment.”

In addition to the vaccine requirement, Providence Alaska is putting a moratorium on large indoor gatherings and non-essential business travel. Universal masking remains a requirement in Providence hospital and patient care areas as well. Additionally, Providence will reinstate mask wearing in non-patient care settings as well, the statement said.

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