WESTFIELD – Baystate Health system employees – including Noble Hospital staff – must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1 according to a letter from President & CEO Mark A. Keroack, MD, MPH.
The letter, dated July 26, states that “at Baystate Health our top priority is to protect the health and safety of our patients, team members, and community. It represents the foundation of our organizational mission and has served as the guiding principle underlying our response to the pandemic. Throughout the past 16 months, you—our team members—have worked tirelessly to do everything possible to keep our patients and team members safe from COVID-19. You have rigorously adhered to every recommended infection control process and intervention because you understand that we have a duty to our patients to ensure a safe environment in which they receive care.”
Keroack noted that 75 percent of all Baystate Health employees are currently vaccinated, which he wrote is the single most effective way to protect our patients, fellow team members, and to ensure a safe workplace.
“It is now time for the rest of us to do our part to ensure a safe work- and care environment by getting vaccinated against COVID-19. To advance this goal, Baystate Health will require all employed team members, including those working remotely, clinical staff, contractors, volunteers, students, and those conducting business within our health system to be fully vaccinated by October 1, 2021,” Keroack wrote to employees.
According to Baystate Health, the rate of COVID-19 infection in the U.S. is rising in all 50 states, including Massachusetts. “Our community is at risk of experiencing a fourth pandemic wave, and cases would be concentrated in unvaccinated individuals and would likely result in more severe illness due to the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19,” Keroack said.
The letter tells employees that this would hit western Massachusetts, particularly the greater Springfield area, more than most communities in the Commonwealth.
“This would have a disproportionate detrimental impact on our community and our patients, because western Massachusetts currently has lower vaccination rates than most of the state,” Keroack stated. “The single most effective way to protect our workplace, each other, and our patients is to get vaccinated.”
More than 160 million people in the U.S., and more than 1 billion worldwide, have been vaccinated against COVID-19. These vaccines have proven to be very safe and highly effective at preventing COVID-19 infection, including that caused by the delta variant. In the unlikely event of a breakthrough infection, the risk of severe disease or death due to COVID-19 is vanishingly low.
Keroack stated that mandatory COVID-19 vaccination of health care personnel has been advocated by numerous national expert organizations, including the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the American Nurses Association, and the American Hospital Association, and it has been adopted by numerous health care organizations across the country and in our region.
“Additionally, we already mandate vaccinating our workforce against influenza and several other infectious diseases, such as measles, mumps, and rubella. It is for all these reasons that Baystate Health is instituting a mandatory vaccine policy for our employees.,” he wrote.
A more detailed plan was promised on Aug. 2 that would outline the new policy. Keroack added that this is consistent with Baystate Health’s
mandatory influenza vaccine policy.
Keroack noted that pregnant employees could request a deferral and ended the letter thanking staff “ for helping us create the safest care environment possible for our patients and each other.”