Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Major Hawai´i Healthcare Providers Issue Mandatory Vaccine Order for Employees

August 2, 2021, 3:33 PM HST
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Many Hawaii healthcare workers will soon face vaccination mandates. (PC: Hilo Medical Center)

Most members of Hawai´i’s healthcare industry will soon be required to vaccinate themselves against COVID-19 or face an array of consequences, which could include testing requirements, other types of restrictions, or potentially even disruptions to employment.

Several of Hawai´i’s largest and most substantive healthcare providers announced jointly on Monday, Aug. 2, that they will require vaccination against the coronavirus for all employees.

The announcement comes as a wave of positive cases unlike anything the Hawaiian Islands have seen since the pandemic began continues to pummel the state with new infections, setting record daily highs that are resulting in increased hospitalizations, mostly among members of the unvaccinated population.

Healthcare institutions where vaccination will be mandated among employees include Kaiser Permanente (including the Moanalua Medical Center), Hawai´i Pacific Health (including the Kapiolani Medical Center and Straub Medical Center), Queen’s Health Systems (including the Queen’s Medical Center), and Adventist Health Castle.

“We know that the best way to protect ourselves against this rapidly-spreading virus is to get vaccinated,” Queen’s President and CEO Jill Hoggard Green told Hawai´i News Now (HNN) on Monday. “The COVID vaccines are safe and effective, and they are our best tool to emerging from this persistent global pandemic.”

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Participating healthcare providers are expected to implement inoculation requirements by the end of September or early October to allow ample time for employees to pursue and receive their full vaccination schedules. There will be some minimal exemptions to the mandate, though specific details have yet to be released.

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Also yet to be outlined are the restrictions and/or penalties facing healthcare employees who refuse to comply with the vaccination order. HNN reported that Queen’s Health Systems has announced that those who choose to remain unvaccinated sans an exemption will be tested weekly for COVID-19. If they resist testing, they will be banned from work.

Hawai´i Health Systems Corporation — which represents several healthcare organizations on the Big Island including Hilo Medical Center, Kona Community Hospital, and Kohala Hospital — released a statement Monday afternoon following the announcement.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our hospitals have worked closely with the Healthcare Association of Hawai´i, and other acute hospitals and long-term care facilities in the state, to provide a uniform response to the pandemic,” Elena Cabatu, director of public affairs at Hilo Medical Center, wrote in a statement. “There is clear consensus that the best way to treat and manage this pandemic is through vaccinations. As the “Safety Net” for Neighbor Island Acute Care and for Long-Term Care in the State of Hawai´i, Hawai´i Health Systems Corporation supports the consensus statement of the Healthcare Association of Hawai´i to require healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated upon full FDA approval of the vaccine.”

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“We are assessing the necessary steps that will be required to ensure that all legal and contractual obligations are met prior to implementing a mandate,” the statement continued.

Governor David Ige announced Monday that the state is considering vaccination mandates for all its public workers, which would include employees such as teachers and the like. The discussions are preliminary, Ige said, as Hawai´i continues to study the rollout of a federal vaccination mandate issued by President Joe Biden last week, which will impact approximately 20,000 people in the Hawaiian Islands and many more on the mainland.

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