Montana health system implements mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations

Great Falls, Mont.-based Benefis Health System will make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for employees, the organization told Becker's.

The vaccine will be mandatory for the health system's more than 3,300 employees as of May 1. Employees who are not exempt from deferral are required to receive their second doses by July 1.

Benefis said the decision was based on various criteria, including vaccine safety and efficacy, as well as healthcare employees' exposure risk.

"Benefis is a leader in healthcare, and we are responsible for doing our absolute best to protect our patients who turn to us in the most vulnerable times. We are also responsible for protecting the employees who support that effort. The vaccines are saving lives and Benefis hopes to be part of this continued effort towards the control of the worldwide pandemic," the health system said.

Benefis said employees will coordinate with their managers to schedule appointments based on availability in the employee's work schedule. Vaccine clinics will be set up at Benefis from May 3 through July 1. Employees who do not comply could be terminated or choose to resign.

"Over the last year, we have lost patients, senior residents, community members, and one Benefis employee to COVID-19," said Benefis. "Vaccinations are especially important for people who have greater risk for contracting vaccine-preventable illnesses and for people who work with vulnerable populations. Healthcare delivery is among the riskiest, and we need the safest environment with the healthiest workforce to meet the needs of those we serve."

Benefis is not the first hospital or health system to implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. Houston Methodist rolled out its mandatory vaccination policy March 31, with April 15 as the deadline for managers to receive at least one dose or get an exemption. More than 99 percent of the management team had complied as of the deadline. The next deadline for all 26,000 employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine is June 7. More than 84 percent of system employees and 96 percent of employed physicians had received at least the first dose as of April 15. 

At Benefis, 64 percent of employees have received at least the first dose since the health system began offering the vaccine in December.  


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