Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

CPH faces employee vaccine mandate deadline

Hospital not expecting compliance issues

Central Peninsula Hospital has until Tuesday to come into full compliance with a federal mandate that will require all its employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or to be approved for an exemption.

Bruce Richards, the external affairs director of the Soldotna hospital, said Thursday that he doesn’t think there will be any major issues.

“I don’t anticipate any problems coming into compliance,” he said. “A lot of people were compliant on their own.”

The latest data showed around 70% of CPH staff were already vaccinated, Richards said. The mandate doesn’t include a booster.

The hospital began the process of requiring COVID vaccines in November 2021, after President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring the vaccines of employees at health care facilities that receive federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services funding.

The effort was put on pause when the state of Alaska, along with nine others, sued the Biden administration over the mandate. The Supreme Court in January, however, voted to uphold the executive order.

Richards said Thursday that most of the near 30% of CPH staffers who aren’t yet vaccinated are applying for exemptions through employee health, or have already had their exemptions approved. The two primary exemptions are for medical or religious reasons.

“Those are ongoing, and have been ever since this process started,” he said, noting he also doesn’t anticipate an exodus of employees come March 15.

“I haven’t heard of anyone being let go or anything like that,” Richards said.

While COVID-related hospitalizations have been trending downward in Alaska, health care employees across the state have had to call out after either testing positive for the virus or coming into contact with a COVID-positive person.

Gene Wiseman, the section chief of the rural and community health systems with the state, said Thursday the most recent omicron wave put a lot of health care workers in quarantine, and that facilities around the state were “seeing a lot of staff sick calls.”

Health officials still encourage everyone to get vaccinated against the virus to minimize community spread. Additionally, they say data show a booster dose offers robust protection.

COVID-19 vaccines do not cost money, and are available to people with and without health insurance. A map of vaccine providers can be found on the state Department of Health and Social Services’ COVID-19 vaccine website at covidvax.alaska.gov.

The state reported 52 COVID-related hospitalizations Friday. A week prior, on March 4, there were 71. There were 621 new cases reported to the state from March 9 and March 10.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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