Important Announcement: COVID-19 Vaccine Now Required of All Providing Care and Services at ARH
Throughout this COVID-19 pandemic, we have been proud and very appreciative of how our ARH Team has come together as one to protect each other, our patients, and communities as we have battled a virus none of us had seen before.
We were cautiously optimistic that the decline in cases over the summer was a positive indication that we would not have to face another wave of the COVID-19 virus that has caused such a strain on our health system, each of you, and your families. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. As we have learned multiple times during this pandemic, we cannot underestimate COVID-19. In recent weeks, it has also become clear that we cannot let our guard down when it comes to the Delta variant that is now invading our eastern Kentucky communities.
Only three weeks ago, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 throughout the ARH system was in the single digits. We now have nearly 10-times the number of inpatients with COVID19, with 74 patients sick enough to require hospitalization, 15 of which are in the ICU. We are also seeing some of the highest numbers of patients testing positive for the virus but not requiring hospitalization than we previously saw at the height of the pandemic. It is an alarmingly rapid increase, and we are only at the beginning of managing this Delta variant – this is not our peak.
While it is true that a small percentage of these patients have become ill even after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, overall, the vaccine is proving to be an effective weapon against the variants. The bulk of those testing positive and 90 percent of those hospitalized at ARH facilities remain unvaccinated.
Despite vaccination education and outreach efforts, the communities we serve, including our ARH healthcare staff, have not yet reached a critical mass of vaccination to provide sufficient protection for the unvaccinated.
In July, more than 60 healthcare organizations – including the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Public Health Association – issued a joint statement calling for all healthcare and long-term care employers to mandate that employees be vaccinated against COVID-19. We sincerely respect all of our ARH Team Members’ personal thoughts and feelings on this matter and have delayed such mandates up to now in hopes vaccination rates would increase enough to prevent further outbreaks that cost lives and put a strain on healthcare systems across the state.
However, due to the current situation we are facing with the Delta variant, and in support of our mission to provide a safe work environment for our staff and a safe place of care for our patients, today we are announcing that ARH will now require all employees, providers, students, volunteers, vendors and contractors who work within ARH to receive at least the initial dose of COVID-19 vaccination by September 15, 2021 unless granted a legally required exemption. For vaccines that require two doses, ARH will require full vaccination no later than November 1,
This decision came after much consideration and was made in collaboration with other major healthcare providers across the state of Kentucky, including Norton Healthcare, Baptist Health, CHI Saint Joseph Health, the University of Louisville, the University of Kentucky, Pikeville Medical Center, and Saint Claire Regional Medical Center who are also requiring staff there to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
ARH will make the vaccination process as simple as possible for all of those requiring the COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccinations can be administered at no cost at your local hospital Employee Health, any ARH primary care clinic without an appointment, and ARH pharmacies.
We understand that some of you will have a verified medical or religious reason not to receive the vaccine and you will be able to apply for the consideration for an exemption to the vaccination policy.
Others of you who have not yet received the vaccine might have questions or concerns that have kept you from being vaccinated. We will make every effort to ease your concerns by providing access to consultations with infectious disease, cardiology, OB/GYN, internal medicine, and family medicine specialists to get answers to those questions.
Additionally, any current unvaccinated ARH employee will receive a $200 monetary bonus after getting the vaccine.
We understand you might have additional questions and encourage you to read the attached FAQ for more information. It can also be found on the ARH Intranet site.
One thing that has always been true and will always remain true about ARH is that we are a family. We hope each of you will understand this move has been made to protect each of the more than 6,000 members of this ARH family and the sick and vulnerable patients we care for daily.
Stay well and be safe,
Duanne Thompson – Chairman, ARH Board of Trustees
Hollie Phillips – ARH President and Chief Executive Officer
Maria Braman, MD – ARH Chief Medical Officer