LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Multiple healthcare providers have announced that they will require their healthcare workforce to get vaccinated.
"We will require our healthcare workforce to initiate a complete COVID-19 vaccination series no later than September 15, 2021," the providers say in a joint statement.
The following healthcare providers are requiring the vaccine for their employees:
- Appalachian Regional Healthcare
- Baptist Health
- King's Daughters Health System
- Med Center Health
- Mercy Health – Lourdes Hospital
- Norton Healthcare
- Pikeville Medical Center
- UK HealthCare
- UofL Health
- St. Claire HealthCare
- St. Elizabeth Healthcare
- CHI Saint Joseph Health
The new policy will help health systems respond to a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant. The healthcare facilities join a list of hospitals and health systems in Kentucky and across the nation requiring the vaccine for employees.
"We have an opportunity for more prosperity, more potential than ever before in my lifetime. We can have the Kentucky that we have always dreamed of. We have that potential at our fingertips," said Gov. Beshear. "But if we are truly going to realize that opportunity, we must win our war against COVID. If we are going to defeat and not just delay COVID-19, there is one and only one answer. That answer is vaccinations. So each decision that we make has to gauge the impact on getting the unvaccinated to take that shot."
Baptist Health shared that employees must get their first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine by Sept. 15. Employees may also opt to take the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Ally employees must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31. Baptist Health workers who cannot get vaccinated for medical or religious reasons may apply for an exemption by August 30. Those with approved exemption will be subject to periodic testing for COVID-19.
“Baptist Health staff members and providers were among the first to receive these life-saving vaccines as role models for others in our communities,” said Gerard Colman, Baptist Health CEO. “We know the vaccines are one of the best ways to combat this virus.“We must continue to lead by example by requiring that all Baptist Health employees are fully vaccinated. It is the ethical and responsible thing to do to live our mission of improving the healthcare of the communities that we serve.”
The vaccination requirement also extends to all Baptist Health contractors, independently licensed healthcare providers, students, vendors, and any other person performing onsite services at any Baptist Health facility. Employees with a start date of Sept. 13 or later will be required to have their first dose of the vaccine within one week of hire
The response to UK Healthcare's announcement to require vaccinations was mostly positive on Wednesday, according to Dr. Mark Newman, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs.
Of about 13,000 total employees, about 12,000 have already been vaccinated, he said.
But not all healthcare workers support the requirement.
Kristen Folk, a nurse at Baptist Health in Madisonville said she was willing to be fired rather than receive the vaccine.
"We give our patients that option all the time to refuse treatment and we really just want to be given that same freedom," she said.
A petition calling for Baptist Health to change its vaccination requirement had about 7,500 signatures as of Thursday night.
"I am very grateful for my job as a nurse and I take great pride in the care that I provide my patients," Folk said. "This is just something I feel so strongly about."
Folk's protest against the vaccine requirement is not against science or the vaccine itself, she said.
"Taking the right away to choose what happens to your body and dictate your medical care is morally and ethically wrong," she said. "I feel like as Americans that is a freedom we shouldn't let be taken away from us."