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Vaccine mandate deadline approaching for healthcare workers, unvaccinated risk losing jobs

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Posted at 6:03 PM, Sep 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-17 21:04:34-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — California healthcare workers have less than two weeks to comply with the state's vaccine mandate or risk losing their job.

“There will be a contingent of folks that will have to be placed on administrative leave at September 30th," Brett McClain, Sharp Healthcare's Chief Operating Officer, said.

On KOGO AM Radio, McClain expressed his concerns about the possible impact the state's vaccine mandate could have on the hospital.

Currently, 89% of Sharp's 19,000 employees are vaccinated.

"We're very proud of that," McClain said. "That's gone up ten percentage points in the last about five weeks, and so we're continuing to work on that because we want to make sure that we keep as many of our healthcare workers as possible."

However, McClain said an estimated 600 workers haven't gotten the shot and don't qualify for medical or religious exemptions.

If employees don't comply by September 30, Sharp's policy states they'll be put on leave and have a month to get vaccinated or be let go.

Wendy Patrick, a legal analyst, and SDSU lecturer, said it puts hospitals in a challenging situation given the ongoing staffing shortages.

"What do you do if you have COVID cases rising, vaccination rates falling, ICU bed space dwindling? Do you lay off a significant portion of your staff because they have not been vaccinated?" Patrick said.

Both Scripps Healthcare and UCSD Health report employee vaccination rates are at least 90%.

At Rady Children's Hospital, 87% of its staff are vaccinated.

Sharp Healthcare has received 700 religious exemption requests. At Scripps, 565 exemptions have been requested. The hospital didn't indicate if they were religious, medical, or both.

Patrick said exemptions are also a gray area, particularly when it comes to what qualifies as a religious exemption.

"This is going to go straight from the emergency room to the courtroom due to the amount of employees that have not yet made any move to becoming vaccinated and due to the record number of exemption requests that are flying in," she said.

Scripps Healthcare said it's complying with the state's vaccine mandate, but would not specify its non-compliant policy for employees. A spokesperson with Rady Children's Hospital says they're still developing a non-compliant policy.