(Update: Adding governor's video statement)
Hospitals, nurses groups applaud move
SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that she has directed the Oregon Health Authority to issue a rule outlining new, required health and safety measures for personnel in health care settings. The rule requires weekly COVID-19 testing for personnel in health care settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in those settings, which can be waived with a proof of vaccination.
The new rule will be issued this week and the requirement to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing will apply starting Sept. 30. This will give employers time to prepare for implementation, and will give currently unvaccinated health care workers time to become fully vaccinated.
“The more contagious delta variant has changed everything," Brown said. "This new safety measure is necessary to stop delta from causing severe illness among our first line of defense: our doctors, nurses, medical students, and frontline health care workers.
"Protecting our frontline health care workers through vaccination will also enhance the safety of the patients in their care,” the governor added. “Severe illness from COVID-19 is now largely preventable, and vaccination is clearly our best defense. Vaccination and weekly testing ensure Oregonians can safely access health care and employees can go to work in an environment that maximizes health and safety measures for COVID-19.”
The new rule applies broadly to personnel in health care settings who have direct or indirect contact with patients or infectious materials.
The governor’s office said it continues to look at additional health and safety options to protect Oregonians against the highly contagious Delta variant, including vaccination and testing policies for state workers, with conversations continuing with stakeholders about how similar protective measures can be implemented in various state workplaces.
Governor Brown called on other public and private employers in Oregon to implement measures to facilitate their employees’ access to vaccines.
“As we have throughout this pandemic, we are learning to adapt to the new reality the delta variant has created," she said. "I am encouraging Oregon cities, counties, businesses, and employers to think creatively, and to implement measures such as paid time off for vaccination, and incentives for employees, in addition to instituting masking requirements and other health and safety measures in the workplace. I am doing the same with the State of Oregon’s workforce, and I expect employers to find ways to remove barriers to easy access to vaccination.”
Although employment-related vaccination requirements are generally allowed under state and federal law, state law currently prohibits employers from independently mandating vaccines for certain limited categories of workers, including health care workers. The governor said she intends to work with stakeholders and legislators to address this issue in the February 2022 session.
Hospitals Applaud Governor's Action to Protect Oregon Patients
Oregon Assn. of Hosp. and Health Systems (OAHHS) - 08/04/21 2:03 PM
Increasing health care worker vaccination rates protects patients, visitors, and communities
Lake Oswego, Ore. – August 4, 2021 – Becky Hultberg, President and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, released the following statement regarding the Governor’s newly released rule on vaccination and testing requirements for health care workers in Oregon.
“Throughout the pandemic, Oregon’s hospitals have been committed to safeguarding the health of our patients, visitors and workers. We support today’s action by Governor Brown, which will require health care workers in Oregon to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested regularly for the virus. With these additional tools we can better respond to this evolving pandemic and provide the safest possible environment for those who depend on us.”
About OAHHS: Founded in 1934, OAHHS is a statewide, nonprofit trade association that works closely with local and national government leaders, business and citizen coalitions, and other professional health care organizations to enhance and promote community health and to continue improving Oregon’s innovative health care delivery system.
(Portland, Ore.) - The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) applauds Governor Kate Brown’s announcement today regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and health care workers. This is a reasonable and sensible approach which respects the individual choices of health care workers while also protecting public health. ONA believes COVID-19 vaccinations are critical to protecting our members, our patients, our families and our communities and we urge all Oregonians who can get vaccinated to do so today. ONA is also gratified to note Oregon’s current law provides the state the flexibility necessary to respond to public health emergencies via regulation.
Oregonians and Oregon’s nurses have sacrificed too much and come too far to suffer another wave of COVID-19. ONA is eager to continue our work with hospitals and community groups to encourage vaccinations through a wide range of options, including free vaccine clinics, vaccine education, vaccination incentives, and community outreach to improve vaccination rates and address the rampant disinformation that is creating uncertainty and fueling vaccine hesitancy. Vaccination is a critical tool to keep Oregonians healthy and safe. Governor Brown’s announcement will help close the gap in vaccination rates for Oregon’s essential health care workers.
ONA calls upon health care corporations to also commit to support the Governor’s efforts by implementing a range of policies to increase the effectiveness of this new rule.
First, it is crucial to remember COVID-19 testing for nurses and health care workers was extremely limited in the early days of the pandemic. Now, hospitals and health care corporations must take all steps to ensure testing for nurses and health care workers who need it is free, available at the workplace whenever possible, and responsive.
Second, all employers must guarantee paid time off for workers who experience adverse effects from COVID-19 vaccinations. We know some individuals experience side effects from the vaccine and ensuring paid time off for staff who are too ill to work will help increase vaccinations for those who are hesitant.
Finally, employers with union-represented staff must recognize and honor a union’s right to bargain over changes to working conditions in represented facilities. ONA will work with our union members in facilities across the state to ensure employers respect our legally binding contracts.
ONA is also redoubling our own efforts to close the gap on nurse vaccination rates in Oregon. It is important to note that registered nurses and nurse practitioners across the state have achieved a high rate of vaccination, nearly 80%, and should be applauded for doing so.
In the coming weeks, ONA will begin a statewide public information campaign, targeted at nurses and health care workers in Oregon counties identified by the CDC as having high transmission rates, to help address concerns, questions, and hesitancy among health care workers who have not yet been vaccinated. This campaign will include nurse-to-nurse and nurse-to-community outreach via phone calls, text messages and social media, along with more traditional public relations initiatives.
ONA has also recently awarded two major grants to nonprofits who are focused on increasing vaccination rates among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. We will continue to focus on increasing vaccination rates among our members and the broader community in any way we can.
The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) is Oregon's largest and most influential nursing organization. We are a professional association and labor union which represents 15,000 nurses and allied health workers throughout the state. Our mission is to advocate for nursing, quality health care and healthy communities. For more information visit: www.OregonRN.org.