Bartlett Regional Hospital

Hospital announces vaccine policy, resumes inpatient elective surgeries

The inpatient elective surgeries may be suspended if case counts continue to rise.

As Juneau’s coronavirus counts hit back-to-back days with 60 or more new cases, Bartlett Regional Hospital announced a new policy mandating all employees be vaccinated by Dec. 15, 2021.

Nine percent of the staff at the hospital is currently unvaccinated, said spokesperson Katie Bausler in a news release.

“Getting vaccinated is the best thing one can do to support all of our efforts and to protect each other from this pervasive, deadly, and overwhelming virus,” said infection preventionist Charlee Gribbon in the news release.

Employees are allowed to request medical or religious exemptions under the policy, according to the news release. The policy will apply to everyone on the hospital’s property, both employees and contractors.

“There have been no exemptions granted under the policy at this point in time,” said BRH human resources director Dallas Hargrave in an email. “We are giving employees a month to provide the documentation necessary to support a medical or religious exemption.”

The hospital has offered virtual sessions with management and union representatives to answer any questions employees may have about the vaccine.

“An employee being administratively separated for not meeting the requirements of the position (being fully vaccinated) by December 15 is a possibility,” said Hargrave in an email. “We have a highly vaccinated workforce of over 90% at this point in time, so we are hoping that that by listening to our unvaccinated employees’ concerns and working with employees in a non-punitive manner, we can keep administrative separations to a minimum.”

The hospital will also offer a path back to employment for workers who are separated and later get vaccinated, Hargrave said.

Elective procedures

BRH will also resume inpatient elective procedures on Monday, Sept. 20.

“I am excited that we once again can provide this service to our community and surrounding communities,” wrote chief nursing officer Kim McDowell in a news release announcing the change.

McDowell hoped that community cases would decrease soon so the hospital would be able to serve patients, but that there were contingencies in place if that didn’t come to pass.

“I hope that we will start to see a decrease in COVID-19 cases, so we can continue to serve our patients without interruption,” McDowell said. “If cases continue to increase, the situation will be re-evaluated.”

Outpatient procedures are already underway, the news release said.

“Decisions such as delaying surgeries are not taken lightly, and we understand this not only affects providers, it especially affects the patients we serve,” McDowell said.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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