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Idaho health systems can't afford to enforce employee vaccination requirement due to crisis standards of care

"We literally cannot see the wisdom of even removing even a single employee and making these already stretched teams work harder."

BOISE, Idaho — Earlier this week, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare extended crisis standards of care across the Gem State's healthcare system.

Over the summer, Saint Alphonsus Medical Group and St. Luke's Health System announced they would require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but the war against the COVID-19 pandemic in the Gem State has drastically worsened since then.

Officials from both healthcare providers told KTVB that their vaccine requirements have not led to a single employee getting fired. While some staff at St. Luke's resigned, it is untrue that their requirements have led to Idaho activating crisis standards of care.

Because of the current crisis standards of care, St. Luke's said they cannot afford to enforce their vaccine mandate for employees since they need every single staff member available.

"With our teams being stretched as far as they are right now, and us making that appeal to crisis standards, we literally cannot see the wisdom of even removing even a single employee and making these already stretched teams work harder," Dr. Jim Souza, the Chief Physician at St. Luke's, said.

At Saint Alphonsus, their vaccination requirement deadline is next week.

Doctor Steven Nemerson, the chief clinical officer at Saint Alphonsus, said the percentage of employees who resigned due to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate is less than half of a percentage point.

"We're incredibly pleased that people are responding to the scientific information and the correct facts and making the decision to get vaccinated," he said.

While their vaccine requirements are on pause, both St. Luke's and Saint Alphonsus said vaccination is key to keep patients and staff safe.

"The number of vaccinated colleagues that we have on quarantine right now is three times less than the number that we would have if we didn't have a vaccinated workforce," Nemerson told KTVB.

Both health systems say they are now employing more people than the they have in the past.

"Are we changing our position on the requirement? Absolutely not," Dr. Souza said. "This is a moment of time where taking those action doesn't compute."

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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