Compliance with Sanford Health vaccination policy hits 99%

Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health's COVID-19 vaccination mandate for employees is working in terms of boosting the compliance rate and also resulted in a decline in coronavirus infections and sick leave among staff, according to a statement from Jeremy Cauwels, MD, chief physician at the organization.

Sanford Health announced in July its requirement that all employees be vaccinated by Nov. 1 unless they have an exemption.

As of the requirement deadline, 99 percent of Sanford Health's 48,000 employees had complied, Dr. Cauwels said in the statement, which was shared with Becker's via email.

"Sanford Health was proud to be one of the first healthcare providers in the country to announce we would require all employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination to protect our patients, residents and our people," he said. "The vaccine mandate has worked."

Sanford Health employees who did not begin their shot series or did not have an approved exemption by Nov. 1 will be suspended for up to 60 days without pay and taken off the work schedule. As of Nov. 1, fewer than 1 percent of employees had been suspended.

Dr. Cauwels said the health system expects employees who have not complied will try to comply with the policy "and overall, we expect the number of staff departures tied to the mandate will be minimal. However, continued failure to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine requirements within 60 days will result in the employee being considered to have voluntarily resigned from their employment."

Sanford Health employees who have received an approved medical or religious exemption must undergo regular COVID-19 testing.  

Dr. Cauwels said employees in clinical and patient-facing settings continue to wear surgical masks at all times, and there are visitor restrictions in some areas.

"We remain resolute in our commitment to keeping our people, patients, residents and communities healthy and safe," he added.

Sanford Health is a 46-hospital health system led by President and CEO Bill Gassen. Mr. Gassen in November 2020 replaced Kelby Krabbenhoft, who led Sanford Health for 24 years and drew national attention to the organization after he sent an email to employees about his rationale for not wearing a face covering. 

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