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OHSU COVID-19 vaccine policy implementation, operations update

** Updated Oct. 20, 2021 **
OHSU logo of yellow and green lines that form a flame-like image above the letters OHSU.

 

*** Updated Oct. 20, 2021 ***

At OHSU, the health and safety of our patients, employees and learners is our first priority. As the state’s academic health and science university, OHSU supports and adheres to the scientific evidence confirming the safety and efficacy of all three COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States.

OHSU strongly encourages vaccination for all who are eligible and firmly believes that getting vaccinated is one of the best things anyone can do to protect themselves, our patients, loved ones, neighbors, friends and the community at large from severe illness or death.

To help ensure our hospitals and clinics remain as safe as possible for the long term, as of Oct. 18, 2021, all OHSU members – employees, learners and volunteers institution-wide – must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have received an approved medical or religious exception.

OHSU acknowledges that getting vaccinated is a personal choice and that the decision to do so may be difficult for many of our members. The situation is also difficult for our university because we greatly value our more than 22,000 employees, learners and volunteers. 

OHSU has one of the highest rates of vaccination among hospitals and health systems regionwide, with more than 96% of OHSU members fully vaccinated, in compliance with OHSU policy and Oregon state law.

Since we first announced an institutional vaccine policy in May 2021, OHSU has experienced a steady increase in workforce vaccination rates, which is a testament to our members’ steadfast dedication to ensuring the health and safety of their patients, colleagues and themselves. 

Vaccinations are the key to protecting ourselves and those we hold most dear from becoming infected with COVID-19 and to ending this devastating pandemic. We hope everyone who can get vaccinated will get vaccinated.

Operations

Vaccine policy compliance is just one of many issues affecting health care staffing at OHSU, around the state and across the nation. OHSU is committed to ensuring the best and safest possible access to health care services, and will not close any clinics or hospital units as a direct result of vaccination policy non-compliance.

OHSU currently is focused on increasing available staffing to further minimize operational impacts and maintain the necessary services our patients require. Thirty-two OHSU members have received exceptions to the vaccine policy and 422 members, across OHSU’s health care, research and education missions, have been laid off or placed on unpaid leave, as of Oct. 18, 2021. We continue to assess hospital and outpatient operations on a daily basis, and are prepared to redistribute staff to teams that need assistance due to departures and are onboarding temporary staff to help fill workforce vacancies.

At various times during the pandemic, OHSU has limited the number of nonemergency procedures and surgeries performed each day in response to dramatic increases, or surges, in patients severely ill with COVID-19. At this time, we continue to see the high demand for hospital admission from emergency rooms, surgeries, clinics and transfers from across the state exceed our staffed bed capacity. We expect to continue to have to limit scheduled procedures, surgeries and hospital admission every day, as well as limit the hours of some imaging and lab services, to varying degrees.

By the numbers

As of Tuesday, Oct. 19:

  • 21,683 OHSU employees, students and volunteers are fully vaccinated.
  • 161 members are partially vaccinated. These individuals have been placed on temporary leave until their vaccination series is complete.
  • 261 members were not compliant with OHSU policy or Oregon state law, meaning they did not receive an approved medical or religious exception, and did not take any action to become vaccinated. These individuals have been placed on leave and may face termination.
  • 32 members have received an approved medical or religious exception and may continue to work or learn at OHSU without becoming vaccinated. In alignment with OHSU’s commitment to ensuring the health and safety of all those who have entrusted us with their care, the few OHSU members in patient-facing roles who were not fully vaccinated will be required to complete twice weekly testing, and absent an urgent need to prevent injury and preserve health, will be transferred to roles that do not involve direct, in-person patient contact. In the event that no such roles are available, these members may be accommodated, which includes being placed on unpaid leave.
  • A total of 42 medical and 467 religious exception requests were submitted by OHSU members; some of which are currently undergoing review by the OHSU Vaccine Exception Review Committee, comprising representatives from the OHSU departments of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity, Student Access, Human Resources, Occupational Health, Student Health and Wellness, Legal and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. The committee thoroughly reviews each request in accordance with a set of narrow criteria – consistent with the law – for each employee, learner or volunteer. Each review involves two independent assessments by members of this committee to determine if a request meets the very specific legal requirements of exception. Medical exception requests are reviewed independently by two physicians, who are a part of the committee, to provide input as to the medical basis of each request.
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