Yakima hospital reports 95% of staff in compliance with vaccine mandate

YAKIMA, Wash. — Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital officials reported Tuesday that 95% of employees were in compliance with the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health care workers.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marty Brueggemann said while most employees are fully vaccinated, others have been granted legal exemptions to the mandate for religious or medical reasons.

“There’s a very, very small handful of people that do have exemptions that won’t be vaccinated, but by and large everybody inside the hospital will be vaccinated,” Brueggemann said.

Brueggemann said there are no restrictions on what kind of care an employee can provide if they are unvaccinated, but in compliance with the state mandate due to a legal exemption. However, he said they are required to take extra COVID-19 precautions.

“First, you have to mask— which, we do that already,” Brueggemann said. “The second thing is you must undergo weekly testing to try and pick up on anybody who may have an asymptomatic infection.”

Brueggemann said employees can get tested for free at the hospital or at one of the community-based testing sites in Yakima County.

Anyone who was not in compliance with the state mandate as of the deadline Monday has been furloughed, which represents about 5% of Yakima Valley Memorial’s staff.

“It’s just basically an unpaid leave: you’re not fired,” Brueggemann said. “We’ll welcome you back at any time that you choose to become compliant with the policy.”

Brueggemann said some employees out on furlough are fully vaccinated, but procrastinated in getting their vaccination card in. He said others are planning to return as soon as they complete their second dose.

“I don’t think we’ll know until months from now how many people just won’t come back,” Brueggemann said. “Although we certainly hope to have most of these people come into compliance and continue to work with us, in the grand scheme of things, we don’t expect this to disrupt operations.”

Brueggemann said the hospital continues to be understaffed and is looking to hire more health care workers, but they  aren’t expecting the mandate to discourage prospective hires from signing on.

“As a general rule, I don’t think this will deter people because I think it’s part of what you sign up for when you go into health care,” Brueggemann said.

RECENT HEADLINES FROM THE KAPP KVEW NEWS STAFF:

RELATED: Two Yakima residents, including teenager, arrested in Grant County with suspected narcotics