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Coronavirus Health Care News Sussex County

Beebe rolls out vaccine or test policy for staff

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Beebe Healthcare announced it will be complying with the state’s vaccine or test mandate for its more than 2,000 employees. | PHOTO COURTESY OF BEEBE HEALTHCARE

LEWES — Beebe Healthcare will soon require its new employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, although existing employees must either be vaccinated or receive weekly testing per state regulations.

The measure, which went into effect on Oct. 1, comes after days of confusion as Beebe Healthcare officials said there was no vaccine mandate during a town hall event with the Sussex County community. At the time, Beebe officials said there was no vaccine mandate, and its CEO David Tam said it was still waiting on federal guidelines.

“Perhaps, in hindsight, I should have been more clear… we were working on the particulars of the testing requirement with the state,” Tam wrote in a column released Wednesday. “I have made the decision not to lay down a termination ultimatum at this time.”

Beebe officials have declined to disclose the health care system’s vaccination rate, citing privacy of its employees. But Tam told the Delaware Business Times that it was “higher than the percentage of those 18 and older who are vaccinated in Delaware,” which is currently 65%. Beebe has 2,850 employees, and is the fourth largest hospital system in Delaware. 

Those Beebe workers who are not vaccinated must get tested on their own time and expense. Those who did receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine before Sept. 30 received eight hours of paid time off, Tam told DBT. The two vaccines were also added to the health care system’s health insurance premiums for 2022.

“Beebe believes in the vaccine. And Beebe also believes in our team of caring, compassionate caregivers who have already sacrificed so much to care for our unique community,” he said in a prepared statement. “At a time when health care workers are so stressed and exhausted that they are ready to leave a profession they love, I believe we need to raise them up as much as possible, while doing all we can to ensure the safety of our patients and their families.”

Beebe’s stance on vaccines is not new for Delaware hospitals, let alone other private employers. With the federal government planning to require companies of 100 employees or more to be vaccinated or be tested regularly — or face thousands in fines — many Delaware’s companies, like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and AstraZeneca, have already instituted such policies for client-facing positions.

But ChristianaCare, Nemours Children’s Health and Trinity Health have a hard vaccine policy, terminating those who don’t ultimately get vaccinated.

ChristianaCare, the largest private employer in the state, fired about 150 employees as of last week. But the requirement raised the hospital system’s vaccination rate from 60% to 93% in two months’ time.

Tam said that Beebe Healthcare remains guided by science in the vaccine, and continues to work with employees who are not vaccinated yet to provide up-to-date information.

“Please know that Beebe’s policies and procedures will continue to be in alignment with government health authorities throughout this pandemic crisis. It is also critical to remember that before there was a vaccine available to health care workers and the public, health care facilities were safe places to receive care,” Tam said. “And they still are. Months of data show effective infection prevention measures keep patients and caretakers safe.”

Read Beebe Healthcare CEO David Tam’s column here. 

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