Ohio Community

VA Mandates COVID-19 Vaccines for Healthcare Workers, Including Northeast Ohio Locations

Brooke Phillips, CWCMS
Editor | Shield HealthCare
07/29/21  2:43 PM PST

Original article by Julie Washington on cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Department of Veterans Affairs will make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for VA doctors and other health care personnel who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities, visit VHA facilities or provide direct care to those the VA serves.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough made the announcement in a press release on Monday. The ruling affects the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center and the rest of the VA Northeast Ohio Health Care System.

The VA serves 111,000 veterans across Northeast Ohio, operating in 18 locations, including 13 outpatient clinics. There are 5,497 Healthcare System Employees in the region, according to a VA factsheet.

The list of affected VA health care workers includes dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors.

The VA is taking this necessary step to keep the veterans it serves safe, McDonough said.

In recent weeks, VA has lost four employees to COVID-19 — all of whom were unvaccinated, McDonough said. At least three of those employees died because of the increasingly prevalent and more easily spread delta variant.

There has also been an outbreak of COVID-19 among unvaccinated employees and trainees at a VA Law Enforcement Training Center, the third such outbreak during the pandemic, he said.

“We’re mandating vaccines for employees because it’s the best way to keep Veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” McDonough said. “Whenever a veteran or VA employee sets foot in a VA facility, they deserve to know that we have done everything in our power to protect them from COVID-19. With this mandate, we can once again make — and keep — that fundamental promise.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the largest integrated health system in the United States, providing care to more than 6 million veterans each year. The VA employs nearly 380,000 people, including more than 350,000 employees in the Veterans Health Administration.

A spokeswoman for the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System declined further comment.

Other area hospitals are not requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for employees.

COVID-19 vaccines are not mandatory for any University Hospitals employee, according to a UH statement. Caregivers who choose not to receive the shots are required to wear PPE and continue to practice hygiene recommendations and physical distancing, the statement said.

MetroHealth System is encouraging staff and employees to get vaccinated, a spokeswoman said. Nearly 80% of MetroHealth employees and staff are vaccinated, MetroHealth said.

The Cleveland Clinic did not respond immediately to a request for information, but WJW Channel 8 reported that the Clinic is encouraging, but not requiring, employees to be vaccinated.

VA healthcare employees have eight weeks to be fully vaccinated.

All VA employees are eligible to be vaccinated at no personal expense at any VA facility, the department said. Employees will also receive four hours of paid administrative leave after demonstrating they have been vaccinated.

The VA’s move is supported by numerous medical organizations, including the American Hospital Association, America’s Essential Hospitals and a Multisociety group of the leading Infectious Disease Societies.

The American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American College of Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, Association of American Medical Colleges, and National Association for Home Care and Hospice also endorsed mandating COVID-19 vaccination for health care workers, the VA said.


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