Another hospital system in the Lowcountry will soon mandate that workers get a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment.
Roper St. Francis alerted its approximately 6,000 employees of the impending requirement on Aug. 24. The announcement comes a day after the federal Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 and older and comes amid a new surge of COVID patients flooding hospitals and intensive care units across South Carolina.
“We are proceeding with this requirement because we care about you and our patients,” Roper St. Francis wrote in an email to employees. “This mandate is unanimously supported by the RSFH Board of Directors, senior leadership and our medical staff.”
Roper St. Francis staff who are not fully vaccinated must get their first dose by Oct. 1 and their second dose by Nov. 1. Employees who intend to file medical or religious exemptions to the mandate must do so by Sept. 17. Roper St. Francis spokesman Andy Lyons said the details of those exemption forms are still being finalized and he did not yet know if employees who developed natural immunity through a previous COVID-19 infection would qualify for a medical exemption.
Lyons said approximately 1,500 of the system’s 6,000 employees have not been vaccinated yet.
The Medical University of South Carolina and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston already require employees to be vaccinated. In July, MUSC fired five employees who declined to be vaccinated. Vaccines for Trident Health employees remain optional, but encouraged.
In the letter to employees, Roper St. Francis leaders said more than 3,600 health care workers across the country died during the first year of the pandemic and explained that unvaccinated hospital and health care employees create more risks for patients.
According to the latest hospital census, across all four Roper St. Francis hospitals, all but 14 of the 107 COVID-19 inpatients are unvaccinated. None of the vaccinated patients who are hospitalized are on ventilators.