Legacy releases unvaccinated staff and braces for impact of emergency care center and lab closures
Legacy Health is closing some emergency and laboratory care centers in Metro Portland and the Willamette Valley, and limiting services available at other clinics. It comes as Legacy faces staff shortages due to employee choices not to comply with its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
A spokesperson for Legacy said the closures would be temporary when it comes to strategies; including temporary labor and hiring acceleration to increase headcount.
It’s an indication of the challenges ahead as other health systems across the state grapple with a continuing increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations, staff exhaustion and a vaccination mandate that most health workers have complied, but a minority strongly opposes it.
Legacy places unvaccinated staff, who do not have approved medical or religious exemptions, on administrative leave starting at midnight Friday morning.
Legacy employs approximately 14,000 people in 6 hospitals and approximately 70 clinics in Oregon and southwest Washington, making it one of Oregon’s largest employers and healthcare providers.
The closures affect four of the 16 nonprofit GoHealth emergency care centers in Camas, Lake Oswego, Pearl District and West Linn; as well as four laboratory patient service centers in Camas, Cornell, Lake Oswego and West Linn. Legacy says it is moving staff to other nearby locations to consolidate services.
Imaging services such as CT scans, mammograms and ultrasounds will no longer be available at Woodburn Health Center. Ultrasound and X-ray services are suspended at Legacy’s medical offices in Tualatin and Vancouver. Some elective surgeries, already on hold due to the wave of delta variants, will continue to be postponed due to staff shortages.
Legacy would not say how many employees requested medical or religious exemptions, or whether any of those exemptions were granted.
To date, 93% of Legacy employees and 98% of its medical staff have been vaccinated.
Employees who wish to keep their jobs have until October 18 to start their vaccination series.
âWe don’t want to lose a nurse because of this mandate. We don’t, âsaid Dr. Kecia Kelly, Chief Nurse at Legacy. âBut we also maintain our core value of having a safe place for our patients to receive care, and we sincerely believe that the vaccine, along with the masking, is the only way out of this pandemic. “
A rule issued by the Oregon Health Authority this year requires all health workers in the state to be fully immunized against COVID-19 by October 18, while allowing health systems to impose longer deadlines. early to their staff if they wish.
The Oregon Nurses Association has accused Legacy of issuing blanket denials of requests for religious exemptions and of following a process that lacks transparency.
“Legacy has not told us how many or what kind of exemptions have been received, or how many have been granted,” ONA spokesman Scott Palmer said.
âWe only know what our staff have heard from nurses in the field, that is, we don’t know of a single religious exemption that has been granted to Legacy Silverton. Given the lack of detail, we don’t know how to characterize it otherwise.
ONA represents nurses from two former hospitals, the Unity Center for Behavioral Health and Legacy Silverton Medical Center.
The ONA does not yet have information for Unity employees. But at the Silverton site, out of 150 nurses, 31 did not comply with vaccination requirements.
The ONA initially opposed a mandate to vaccinate all health workers, arguing that testing should be an option for nurses who did not want to be vaccinated but who have supported the policy since it came into being. become law.
Palmer said the ONA believes everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated and that employers should follow federal and state laws when a nurse requests an exemption for medical reasons or deep religious beliefs.
Nurses, in turn, says Palmer, have an obligation to use the exemption process honestly and with integrity.
Legacy’s religious exemptions were reviewed by a committee that included ethicists and members of a spiritual care team, and the process was blinded to protect employee privacy, according to CNO Dr. Kecia Kelly.
âIt was a fair and equitable process where each individual case was taken into consideration before making our decision,â Kelly said.
Kelly said her priority is to continue encouraging staff who haven’t been vaccinated to do so, but she respects the fact that some nurses have made up their minds.
âWe want to thank all of our nurses, all of our staff who have been here to care for our patients during the most difficult time in healthcare that many of us have ever experienced,â she said. âNurses have been at the forefront of this work, and I’ve seen the work, I’ve seen the sacrifices they’ve made, first-hand, to be able to care for our patients. “