Trinity Health CEO on motivations behind vaccine mandate

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Mike Slubowski, the CEO of Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health, said there was no hesitation to mandate COVID-19 vaccines at its 91 hospitals and 113 continuing care facilities. 

"If I could get on my knees and beg everyone to get vaccinated, I would right now," he told Becker's.

The health system's vaccination rate among its 117,000 employees plateaued, with around 75 percent of employees having at least one dose. This was not enough for the CEO, who said its mission centers around the safety of its patients and employees.

"We're a healthcare provider, and people who come to us for care expect that they're going to be safe. They expected our people are vaccinated," Mr. Slubowski said. "And for 75 percent of our colleagues who come to work, they expect that their colleagues are vaccinated — that they can be safe coming to work."

A second driving factor: the proven safety of the vaccine, he said. More than 3.3 billion doses have been administered internationally. Within U.S. borders, 158 million Americans are fully vaccinated.

"There's a rich pool of data about the fact that vaccines are safe and effective," he said. "You're seeing there right now the only people ending up with serious illness or death [from COVID-19], 99 percent of them are unvaccinated."

Many health systems have expressed concerns over workforce shortages if employees who are hesitant to get the vaccine choose to quit. However, this was not going to stop Mr. Slubowski and Trinity officials.

"We're always concerned about our colleagues and trying to both recruit and retain colleagues," he said. "Like every organization coming out of this pandemic, we have had various shortages in departments across our ministries. ... But the safety, health and welfare of our colleagues is an overarching concern. You can't work if you're not healthy. You can't work in an environment where you're not safe. If you're around unvaccinated people, you can't make or create a safe environment for the patients."

Although it has only been a few hours since the announcement of the mandate, hospital employees have been supportive.

"There are a handful of people that have questions and concerns, and we're addressing those," he said. "But again, I want to repeat that 75 percent of our people are already vaccinated, so the vast majority have already voted with their feet."

 

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