PeaceHealth puts unvaccinated staff on unpaid leave on Wednesday, leading to unfair labor charge
LONGVIEW — As of Wednesday, more than 94% of PeaceHealth caregivers had met the employer’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements and those who did not have been placed on unpaid leave, according to the organization.
PeaceHealth spokeswoman Debra Carnes said she could not provide the specific percentage for PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center at this time, but expects it to “closely reflect” the system-wide percentage.
When the organization announced its requirement on Aug. 3, about 69 percent of the nearly 1,600 workers at PeaceHealth St. John and PeaceHealth’s Longview clinics were vaccinated, according to the organization.
PeaceHealth’s mandate applies to all workers, including contractors, students, contractors, vendors and volunteers.
Caregivers who did not meet the requirement to get the vaccine or work to get the vaccine were put on unpaid leave on Wednesday, according to PeaceHealth. People on leave can return to work if they adhere to the vaccination policy and provide vaccination documents.
On August 20, the Washington State Nurses Association filed an unfair labor practice complaint against PeaceHealth over its “unilateral decision” to put workers who have been granted medical or religious exemptions on leave without negotiating with the union, said Ruth Schubert, spokesperson for the association.
The association represents nurses from the five PeaceHealth hospitals in Washington. Under federal labor law, PeaceHealth is required to negotiate with the union over its individual vaccine mandate, Schubert said.
PeaceHealth initially sat down with the union to negotiate, but stopped responding and imposed its own deadlines and conditions for dealing with nurses eligible for an exemption, she said.
“Unlike every other hospital known to us that allows exempt nurses seeking accommodation to continue to work at the bedside with appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment), PeaceHealth has illegally placed exempt nurses on unpaid leave of absence. as of September 1. Schubert said in an email. “Given how critical the nursing shortage is already, nurses are deeply concerned about what this illegal measure means for already exhausted and understaffed nurses. “
The union has asked the National Labor Relations Board to ask a federal court to issue an injunction to prevent PeaceHealth from removing exempt nurses until PeaceHealth has fully negotiated the matters with the union. The board is investigating the union’s accusation.
PeaceHealth did not specifically respond to a request for comment on the prosecution.
“PeaceHealth has planned in advance how best to provide safe, high quality care during the current public health emergency and our facilities remain staffed with the appropriate staff,” Carnes, spokesperson for PeaceHealth, said in a statement. communicated on vaccine needs.
According to a PeaceHealth statement last week, the hospital intended to recruit an additional workforce to replace up to 5% of “our unvaccinated colleagues who might choose to leave.”
PeaceHealth and Kaiser Permanente announced their own vaccine requirements about a week before Gov. Jay Inslee announced on August 9 that only healthcare and long-term care workers, as well as state officials , will need to show proof of vaccination by October 18.
Following the governor’s announcement, the nurses’ union and two other healthcare worker representatives issued a joint statement on vaccine requirements.
“The Washington State Nurses Association, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, and UFCW21 support science-based public health guidelines on COVID-19 vaccination requirements for frontline healthcare workers, with medical and religious exemptions,” says the press release, “We strongly support immunization as the best way to save the lives of patients, their families and members of our communities.
“At the same time, we fully expect employers to negotiate with us on this change in working conditions.”