Asante employee says hospital won’t guarantee position after ‘temporary leave’

MEDFORD, Ore. — An Asante employee shared with NBC5 News, despite an approved religious exemption from the vaccine, their position with the company is not guaranteed when they come back.

In the two emails sent by employee relations at the hospital, Asante grants a reasonable accommodation for the employee. The accommodation is a ‘temporary leave’ beginning on the vaccine deadline of October 18. At this time, how long that leave will be is unknown. After the deadline, the employee is told they will not be allowed to come into an Asante facility except as a patient seeking care or as an approved visitor.

Given the importance of this employee’s position, Asante says it will look to fill their position as soon as possible. Asante adds, it can’t guarantee the position will be available when they return to work. The email says the hospital will “make every effort to place you in a suitable and reasonable role upon your return.”

NBC5 News spoke with a labor expert with the Oregon Nurses Association earlier this week. She wasn’t up to date on Asante’s policies, but said it’s a difficult decision for everyone involved. “We really don’t need to lose nurses, however we also have to keep a standard of care so we want to make sure that nurses are safe and are keeping their patients safe,” said Misha Hernandez.

In an article posted to Asante’s website, Scott Kelly, Asante’s president and CEO, said the vaccination of Asante’s workforce is critical to the safety of patients, employees, and the community. He wrote, “as the delta variant tears through our communities, we have undisputed data demonstrating that vaccinated individuals experience better protection against COVID-19: they are less likely to experience severe symptoms, less likely to be hospitalized, and less likely to die from the virus.”

We reached out to Asante on Thursday for an interview. A spokeswoman sent us this statement: “In order to continue to provide care to our community and fulfill our mission… there may be circumstances where Asante needs to fill positions held by employees, out on unprotected leave. If this occurs and an employee cannot return to their current role, we will make every effort to place that employee in a suitable and reasonable role upon their return. It is our sincere hope that every employee granted an unpaid leave, will return to work at Asante.”

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