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MaineHealth defends vaccinating all staff

By Susan Mustapich | Feb 16, 2021

ROCKPORT — MaineHealth issued two press releases the week of Feb. 8 in response to criticism that the health care company had administered COVID-19 vaccinations to all of its employees, not only staff with direct patient contact.

Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport and Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast belong to the family of MaineHealth facilities. MaineHealth is the largest health care organization in the state.

"At the end of December, MaineHealth began to offer vaccinations for COVID-19 to all care team members, as well as contracted and temporary personnel who met the criteria set by the U.S. CDC and Maine CDC," a Feb. 8 press release stated.

By the time Maine's rules for issuing vaccinations to health care workers were redefined on Jan. 13 to include only those individuals with direct patient contact, "MaineHealth had already provided first doses of vaccine to its full care team, with the exception of those declining to be vaccinated," according to the press release.

The company denied that it knowingly disregarded CDC guidelines for issuing vaccinations, as put forth in a Feb. 7 column by Bill Nemitz, of The Portland Press Herald.

"At all times MaineHealth vaccinated its care team members in accordance with U.S. CDC and Maine CDC guidelines, and news reports to the contrary are false," the company stated Feb. 8.

The company defended its approach to vaccinating staff, even those who work at home.

"MaineHealth's decision to vaccinate all its care team members has proven critical as it prepares to set up mass vaccination clinics across its service area. For instance, a majority of those employees who have been working primarily from home during the pandemic are now being redeployed to staff vaccine clinics."

After additional guidance was issued by the state Jan. 18 "that only residents of Maine are eligible for vaccines," the company acknowledged an error in vaccinating "a small number of individuals from out of state who were brought into Maine Medical Center to provide support to nurses and managers in answering questions about the impact of joining a union" the week of Jan. 17.

A Feb. 9 press release reasserted "MaineHealth stands by its decision in December to offer vaccination against COVID-19 to its full care team as being in the best interests of its patients, care team members and the communities it serves."

MaineHealth did not respond directly to questions regarding the number of its staff vaccinated in Knox and Waldo counties.

"We do not break out our data by county, so that information is not available from MaineHealth," wrote Associate Vice President, System Communications and Public Affairs John Porter in a Feb. 9 email. "As indicated in the release, we have offered vaccinations to all our care team members, that means every employee in every role."

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Paul Sheridan | Feb 17, 2021 08:27

The most concerning idea in this article follows from this sentence:

"..."MaineHealth had already provided first doses of vaccine to its full care team, with the exception of those declining to be vaccinated..."

Our hospitals are comfortable with having ANY staff, in ANY area be able to decline the vaccine???

If I were president of these institutions, I would make vaccination a REQUIREMENT of employment.  If you could not be vaccinated for a documented medical reason, then we would find you out of hospital work.

As a patient of doctors and the hospitals themselves, I want to know that they are doing EVERYTHING possible to prevent infection.


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