Time is running out for unvaccinated Mayo Clinic employees to get vaccinated against COVID.
The world-renowned healthcare organization is demanding that all its staff be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or obtain an approved exemption. If a worker cannot prove that they have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine by Monday, January 3, they risk losing their job.
“We want to keep all of our staff,” Mayo Clinic neurologist Dr. James Watson said in a Minnesota Senate committee hearing on Dec. 8. “That being said, our highest obligation is to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of our patients.”
Related: Mayo Clinic tightens mask guidelines and visitor restrictions on omicron variant
Watson, responding to questions from committee chair Senator Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), said Mayo patients – many of whom have complex medical needs – “deserve and expect us to provide them with the care environment of. health as safe as possible ”. This includes requiring that Mayo staff be vaccinated against COVID-19, he said.
A week after the committee hearing, Representative Peggy Bennett (R-Albert Lea) and 37 other Republican state lawmakers signed a letter to the Mayo Clinic urging the healthcare system to replace its vaccination mandate with a “more reasonable” policy.
“While 100% employee vaccination may be ideal under Mayo’s guidelines, we don’t think it’s ethical or realistic,” the letter read, citing Minnesota’s current shortage of healthcare workers. and the United States.
The letter goes on to say that the 38 lawmakers will not back state funding to help provide relief “if these hospitals then turn around and fire these employees” for “unrealistic vaccine mandate policies.” (The letter prompted the Star Tribune editorial board to write an op-ed calling the requests “reckless.”)
Related: Omicron at least 50% of new COVID cases in Minnesota, according to MDH
There is little evidence that immunization mandates have a significant impact on health care personnel. Becker Hospital Review and Fierce Healthcare both have listings detailing quits or layoffs from various healthcare systems. A few said they lost up to 5% of their workforce, but most say the loss was 1% or less.
Additionally, experts were warning of an upcoming crisis for healthcare workers before COVID-19 strikes.
Allina Health, who had an Oct. 1 deadline for her COVID vaccine tenure, had fired 53 people for non-compliance – about 0.2% of the health system’s workforce, the relationship manager said government Kristen McHenry on December 8.
Watson said the Mayo Clinic is ready to “absorb the impacts of these vaccine requirements on staff,” while expressing hope that continued awareness and education efforts will minimize wastage.
The letter from lawmakers also accuses the Mayo Clinic of being unfair and inconsistent in granting medical and religious exemptions to the mandate. Similar arguments were raised on December 8, and Watson defended the process at the time, saying review teams were looking for “sincere religious belief.”
The rejected exemptions either included material copied and pasted from the internet, he said, or included arguments focused on non-religious or political beliefs, which are not admissible.
The majority of Mayo employees who requested an exemption obtained it, he added, although he declined to give a specific number.
The Mayo Clinic employs about 35,000 people in Rochester, Minn. Alone, according to the city, a significant portion of its 65,000 total workers across all sites.