[caption id="attachment_205420" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] ChristianaCare, the state’s largest hospital system, has signed a joint venture with Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care to provide an in-home hospice program for the first time. | PHOTO COURTESY CHRISTIANACARE[/caption]
NEWARK — ChristianaCare, the largest hospital system and private employer in Delaware, is requiring its staff to receive at least one vaccine shot by Sept. 21.The policy applies to all employees regardless of the type of work they do, including medical-dental staff, residents, students, contracted employees, temporary labor, volunteers and vendors. ChristianaCare employs 14,500 people in its hospitals and medical offices across the state.ChristianaCare will grant vaccine exemptions only for specific medical conditions and religious beliefs. Those who do not meet the exemption criteria and have not received the vaccine may have their employment terminated.ChristianaCare President and CEO Janice Nevin said that the rising COVID-19 case count, spurred by the highly transmissible delta variant, caused the health care system to reverse course and mandate the vaccine.“While we have not required vaccinations to-date, the highly transmissible delta variant and the surge in COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated people across the country — including in our area — have prompted additional considerations,” Nevin said in a prepared statement. “The science is clear: Health care workers must be vaccinated in order to protect the health and safety of our patients, our caregivers and our community. We must take this step as expert, caring partners in the health of our neighbors.”ChristianaCare estimates that about 10,000 employees, or 69% of its total workforce, have already opted to receive a vaccine. Exact vaccine recipient data is incomplete, as ChristianaCare has not yet gathered information on employees who may have received their vaccine through pharmacies or other options.The announcement comes within days of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors, as the delta variant of COVID-19 proves to have a high transmission rate. Delaware reported 111 COVID-19 cases on Thursday and the seven-day average is hovering near 78 cases. ChristianaCare Chief People Officer Neil Jasani said that COVID-19 still remains as a dangerous virus, especially as the delta variant is causing younger and healthier people to be hospitalized.“We believe we have reached a tipping point at which the urgent need for all caregivers to be vaccinated is clear,” Jasani said in a prepared statement. “The best way to protect people and to save lives is through vaccination.”ChristianaCare is the second hospital system in the First State to mandate vaccines. Trinity Health, which operates St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington, issued a similar mandate to go into effect Sept. 21. Employees who do not meet criteria for exemption and fail to show proof of vaccination will have their position terminated.TidalHealth, which operates TidalHealth Nanticoke in Seaford, and Lewes-based Beebe Healthcare “continue to discuss” vaccine mandates, as reported by the Delaware Business Times earlier this week. Dover-based Bayhealth reports that about 65% of its staff members were vaccinated, but leadership was not considering requiring a vaccine mandate at this time.