Nursing union rep estimates 10-20% of Oregon nurses will leave healthcare due to mandate

MEDFORD, Ore. —Health care workers are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 18th. That could force some out of health care, at a time where many workers are already exhausted, and working on the frontlines of this pandemic.

As the vaccine mandate deadline approaches for health care workers in Oregon, the Oregon Nurses Association is working to keep staff around, while complying with state regulations.

Misha Hernandez is a southern Oregon Labor Representative with the Oregon Nurses Association. She says local hospitals are doing what they can to keep staff around.

“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 Hernandez.

Hernandez works primarily with Providence Medical Center.

“They are doing a lot to accommodate medical or religious exemptions for nurses, their goal is to accommodate everyone including those that are already vaccinated,” said Hernandez.

She estimates around 10 to 20% of Oregon nurses will leave the field because of the vaccine requirement. Hernandez says nurse vaccine numbers are up, and a significant number of them have already had their exemptions approved.

However, if someone chooses to leave the field now, and return next year, the same spot will be waiting for them.

“It’s not nearly as severe as we had feared,” said Hernandez.

But one thing is certain, the continued importance of medical staff as COVID-19 continues to impact southern Oregon hospitals.

Scott Kelly, Asante’s President, and Chief Executive Officer say Asante will comply.  In an article posted to its website, Kelly says 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”.

The statement included a link to frequently asked questions for staff members, but it’s only accessible to employees.

With the deadline a month away, Hernandez says nurses have all of the resources they need to make their decisions. Both Providence and Asante representatives declined to be interviewed for this story Monday.

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Jenna King is the 6pm and 11pm anchor for NBC5 News. Jenna is a Burbank, CA native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at Oregon she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through her internship with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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