Fairbanks hospital, clinics will require staff to be vaccinated

The Fairbanks Foundation Health Partners will require staff at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital,...
The Fairbanks Foundation Health Partners will require staff at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Tanana Health Clinic and Denali Center to become vaccinated.(ktvf)
Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 2:59 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The nonprofit that operates Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and two Interior clinics announced Friday it will require its health care staff to become vaccinated against COVID-19.

Foundation Health Partners operates Fairbanks Memorial Hospital as well as the Tanana Valley Clinic and the Denali Center, a long-term care facility. It said in a press release that it is transitioning its vaccination program from voluntary to required for all health care staff, which includes “employees, students, volunteers, contract personnel, and licensed independent practitioners providing patient care or services at an FHP facility.”

The move comes amidst growing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the Interior, low vaccination rates in the community and the continued threat of the highly contagious delta variant, the organization said in the release. Staff will be required to have their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Oct 1.

According to the release, there will be exemptions approved for “sincerely held religious beliefs or validated medical conditions.”

“Our patients expect us to be safe when they come to us for care and our employees expect a safe work environment,” said FHP Chief Medical Officer Dr. Angelique Ramirez in the release. “People who have not been vaccinated for COVID-19 are at much higher risk of severe disease.”

Ramirez also noted that those who are unvaccinated are at higher risk for transmitting the virus to others. She said in the release that the vaccination policy will “ensure a healthy, available workforce.”

This vaccination policy comes on the heels of several other Alaska hospitals making vaccination a condition of employment.

Southcentral Foundation and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, two of the state’s biggest tribal health organizations, both made vaccination a requirement for employment this summer, with an effective date of Oct. 15.

Providence Health & Services Alaska, the state’s largest health system, followed suit in early August by announcing vaccines would be required for all staff. Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau also made the call to require vaccines for staff in August.

On Friday, the state’s hospital data dashboard showed there are 165 people being hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide. Alaska continued to set new records for the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations throughout the week, and state hospitals that have been operating at or near capacity for weeks are pleading with state government leaders for help.

Data from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services shows that 80% of COVID-19 hospitalizations during the month of July were among unvaccinated people.

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