MACON, Ga. — A North Carolina-based health system with hospitals in Central Georgia announced Thursday they will soon require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
While healthcare workers were among the first to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, Atrium Health did not previously require their employees to be vaccinated.
Atrium Health confirmed to 13WMAZ sister station, NBC Charlotte, that the more than 70,000 employees across its 40 hospitals will need to be vaccinated by Halloween.
They also sent the following statement to 13WMAZ:
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Atrium Health has earned the trust of our patients and the communities we are privileged to serve for our COVID-Safe practices, designed to maximize patient safety and limit their potential exposure to the virus. With the new Delta variant being far more potent than the original virus, we view it as essential that each of our teammates receive their vaccination to protect themselves, their families and the people in their care.
These new variants are contributing to a 200% increase in hospitalizations – and, among our patients, 99% of those hospitalized in recent weeks have been those who are unvaccinated. This further illustrates the effectiveness of the vaccine.
We have started communicating to all of our teammates (including remote workers, physicians, medical residents, faculty, fellows, trainees, contractors, students/visiting students, members of the medical staff, temporary workers and volunteer staff) that they must be fully vaccinated or have an approved medical or religious exemption. By making the vaccine mandatory for our teammates, Atrium Health, including Wake Forest Baptist Health and Atrium Health Navicent, and along with multiple other health systems across the region, are taking reasonable steps to make sure that our teammates – many of whom remain on the frontlines, interacting directly with people who have COVID – are protected and available to care for members of the community as we deal with the next phases of the pandemic.
We view this vaccine no differently than our requirement for our teammates to get an annual flu shot, as well as be vaccinated for measles, chicken pox and other infectious diseases. The COVID-19 vaccine is essential to protect the health of our teammates and the communities we serve. We believe it is vital that we maintain the safest possible care environment for our patients and this is a critical component of our ability to remain COVID-Safe in the face of new variants impacting our region.”
Atrium Health also told NBC Charlotte that employees who fail to receive their vaccinations by Oct. 31 may receive counseling that could result in the termination of their employment. Medical and religious exemptions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
They said, “All teammates must complete their COVID-19 vaccine series or have an approved medical or religious exemption by Sunday, October 31, 2021. Teammates who do not follow this policy will receive counseling for failing to receive required vaccinations. This could result in consequences up to and including end of employment. We value our teammates who have medical or religious reasons for not receiving the vaccine and will evaluate these requests through a multidisciplinary committee.”