PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Health Systems has joined other health-care facilities in mandating vaccinations for all employees.
All members of the BHS community must be vaccinated for COVID-19 by Oct. 1. The announcement follows an order by the state Department of Public Health on Wednesday that long-term care staff must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 10.
The number of COVID-19 cases spiked over the past few weeks with more than 200 new cases and two deaths occurring in a largely vaccinated population. Public health officials suspect this is the Delta variant that overwhelmed much of the southern United States and lead to a significant number of breakthrough infections in Cape Cod.
“We have an obligation to our community to do everything we can to protect public health and safety,” said David Phelps, president and CEO of Berkshire Health Systems. “As health-care workers, we rely on scientific data to guide our decisions, and in this case, the science has proven that vaccines are the most effective way of preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. With COVID-19 infections on the rise in the Berkshires and across the nation, we must ensure that we are doing everything possible, including mandatory vaccination, to continue protecting this community and curbing the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.”
Last week, the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association issued a statewide policy statement endorsing mandatory vaccination for all Massachusetts hospitals and health system employees. As an MHA member, BHS joined other hospitals across the state in supporting the MHA’s policy and affirming that mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 is the most effective way to prevent its spread and protect public health.
Baystate Health Systems, for example, implemented a vaccination mandate for its 12,000 employees at the end of July. BHS earlier this month revealed that the vaccination rate for its 3,600 employees was nearly 80 percent; Berkshire Healthcare Systems, which saw breakthrough infections numbering nearly 60 at its North Adams Commons facility, has rate of about 68 percent for employees.
Both rates are higher than the state average. BHCS also said it would comply with DPH’s mandate and extend that to its housing and hospice affiliates.
In a memo to the BHS community on Friday, Phelps explained that “at BHS, the rate of employees who are fully vaccinated is approaching 80 percent. We are grateful to each one of you for taking this important step to ensure a safe environment for your patients, your colleagues, your family, and your friends. Still, as health-care workers, we have a duty to protect and care for our community that compels us always to do more.”
All employees, caregivers, contractors, volunteers, and students working and learning within the health system will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. The policy will include specific religious and medical exemptions.
BHS has been offering flexible vaccination hours at various locations in the county since December 2020, and will continue to do so in order to accommodate the needs of staff on all shifts and at all facilities. BHS will also continue providing information on vaccination, offering opportunities for employees to ask questions about vaccination in group settings, and addressing concerns in one-on-one counseling.
Tags: BHS, COVID-19, vaccinations,
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