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HHSC supports call for health care worker vaccine mandates

The Hawaii Health Systems Corp. on Monday said it supports the Healthcare Association of Hawaii’s new call to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers across the state.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our hospitals have worked closely with the Healthcare Association of Hawaii and other acute hospitals and long-term care facilities in the state to provide a uniform response to the pandemic,” HHSC said in a statement provided by Hilo Medical Center spokeswoman Elena Cabatu. “There is clear consensus that the best way to treat and manage this pandemic is through vaccinations.”

According to the statement, HHSC supports the HAH’s consensus and is assessing the necessary steps required to ensure all legal and contractual obligations are met prior to implementing a mandate.

HHSC operates six facilities on the Big Island: Hilo Medical Center, Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home, Hale Ho‘ola Hamakua and Ka‘u Hospital in its East Hawaii Region, and Kona Community Hospital and Kohala Hospital in its West Hawaii Region.

Cabatu said 85% of the East Hawaii Region’s 1,500 employees already have been vaccinated.

The HAH on Monday announced support for mandatory vaccinations — once full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug administration is granted and as long as exemptions are accommodated.

“Our board voted overwhelmingly in support of this decision,” HAH President and CEO Hilton Raethel said in an announcement. “This is the right thing to do to protect patients, residents, and employees, as well as the entire community.”

The association is the nonprofit trade association for Hawaii’s hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, home health agencies and hospices. These organizations collectively employ more than 30,000 people across Hawaii.

The policy does not commit the individual HAH members to following it, but rather provides support for health care employers considering their own vaccination policies, said Wes Lo, a member of the HAH Board of Directors and chief executive officer of Ohana Pacific Health, which operates skilled nursing facilities across Hawaii.

Executives from Adventist Health Castle, Hawaii Pacific Health, Kaiser Permanente and the Queen’s Health Systems announced their own vaccine policies Monday.

The Queen’s Health Systems, which operates Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea, has set an Oct. 1 deadline for employee vaccinations.

“Queen’s was founded in 1859 in the midst of the ravages of infectious diseases in Hawaii. Now, in 2021, we are again asking the question ‘What can we do to best keep our patients, our caregivers and our communities safe from a preventable infectious disease?’” Dr. Todd Allen, senior vice president and chief quality officer, said in the HAH release. “Queen’s is profoundly grateful that after many years of the application of the scientific method, we have a prevention tool as powerful as the COVID vaccines.

“Consistent with our mission, Queen’s is proud to stand with other health systems to require vaccines for our caregiver team with limited exceptions consistent with federal and state policies. This requirement will begin Oct. 1 and our teams are working diligently to finalize the many components needed to make this operational.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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