SOUTHEASTERN N.C. –– Employees of the Novant Health system, including the recently acquired New Hanover Regional Medical Center, will be required to get vaccinated to fight the spread of Covid-19.
The system informed team members Thursday morning of the new policy, which comes with an inoculation deadline of Sept. 15. Should an employee not comply, “their access will be suspended” until they obtain a vaccine, a Novant spokesperson confirmed. If they continue not to update their vaccine status, they could be fired.
About 67% of all Novant Health employees across its entire regional system –– including NHRMC and Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center –– are vaccinated. The system is noticing lower acceptance rates among Black, brown, and younger employees in the Gen Z or Millennial generation, according to a Novant spokesperson. Higher acceptance rates are observed among those with high-ranking clinical roles; as an example, about 95% of the system’s physicians are vaccinated.
Few medical and religious exemptions will be considered by Novant officials on a case-by-case basis. Exemptions and application requirements to obtain them have been shared with staff.
Novant made the change in order to protect patients from the virus due to potential spread from a healthcare worker.
“We believed it was important to take the time needed to listen, understand and address the concerns that hesitant health care workers, and community members, share across our country,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement. “Short of making it mandatory, our internal data suggests that we have exhausted all ways to influence a team member’s vaccine acceptance.”
The spokesperson cited the recent rise of Covid-19, fueled by the Delta Variant. In North Carolina, hospitalizations and daily new cases are peaking for the first time in a two-month period. Thursday, the state reported 1,800 new cases, beating the previous two-month record observed the day prior. As of Wednesday, 751 people are hospitalized for the virus statewide. A majority of those hospitalized have not been vaccinated, state health officials shared Wednesday. More than 90% of Novant’s Covid-19 hospitalizations are among unvaccinated patients.
“[W]e believe it is the right time to implement this program as part of our patient safety efforts,” the spokesperson wrote. “Mandatory vaccination ensures that our patients and visitors, as well as our own team members, have better protection against COVID-19 regardless of where they are in our health system.”
Across the U.S., more than 338 million doses of vaccine have been administered, with a less than 0.005% occurrence of a serious side effect. About 6% of the state’s Covid-19 positive cases since May are considered “breakthrough,” meaning, cases among individuals who had already been vaccinated for at least two weeks.
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