With less than a month before governor Jay Inslee’s October 18 deadline for all state employees and healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated, about 95 percent of PeaceHealth employees in Whatcom County are fully vaccinated.
PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham and its clinics employ 3,200 people in Whatcom County. Of those, 18 employees quit working at PeaceHealth after the vaccine mandate, PeaceHealth spokesperson Bev Mayhew said in an email to The Northern Light. Mayhew said the employees who left held various jobs, but declined to give specific details.
“New variants of Covid-19 are a public health emergency that pose a critical threat to those unable to be vaccinated, including children and the medically vulnerable,” she said. “The rise in hospitalizations – PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center saw the highest number of Covid-19 positive inpatients of the pandemic earlier this month – are a stark reminder that we must do more.”
Another 1.6 percent, or about 51 employees, have not shared their vaccine status, or have either been denied or not yet requested a medical or religious exemption.
Three percent, or 96 employees, have either now had at least one shot of the Covid-19 vaccine or have received an exemption.
Mayhew said PeaceHealth expects the numbers to change before the October 18 deadline. At this time, the number of PeaceHealth workers in Whatcom County is similar to what PeaceHealth is seeing across its 16,000 healthcare workers in Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
Mayhew said staffing levels in Whatcom County are “where they need to be to care for patients.” She added that change in staffing is common in healthcare and PeaceHealth hires traveling nurses and other staff to support short term staffing gaps.