URBANA — Carle Health has announced it will require staff to get the COVID vaccine or face tougher safety measures.
The mandate applies to staff at all Carle Health facilities. The Urbana-based health care system made the announcement Friday and said the new policy takes effect immediately. Carle Health also didn’t rule out a more strict requirement in the future.
Carle Health said workers who refuse to vaccinate will have to wear an N-95 mask and continue what Carle calls “continued high use of PPE, regardless of local coronavirus spread.” That would include wearing eye protection in all clinical spaces. Carle Health said it will consider additional mitigation measures in the weeks ahead.
Carle Health joins a growing list of health care organizations taking additional measures to boost vaccinations among its staff as vaccination rates have leveled off while new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations tied to the Delta variant surge.
“The decision to request all Carle Health team members to get vaccinated was made carefully and follows our organization’s values and commitment to being a trusted health partner for the community,” said Carle Health President and CEO James Leonard.
Carle said about 70% of its 11,000 employees has received the COVID vaccine.
Peoria-based OSF HealthCare that includes OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, issued a COVID vaccine mandate for staff last month. OSF said employees who didn’t comply could face disciplinary action or firing if they aren’t vaccinated by the end of September.
UnityPoint Health also is requiring all of its more than 33,000 employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination by Nov. 1. Employees who don’t face voluntary resignation or termination. There will be medical or religious exemptions, as well as temporary exemptions for pregnant employees.
In central Illinois, UnityPoint operates Methodist Medical Center and Proctor Hospital in Peoria and Pekin Hospital.
Carle’s requirement doesn’t go as far as OSF or UnityPoint,, but Leonard said he wants to know why Carle workers have passed on the vaccine.
“We are trying to figure out who is that hard ‘no’ that under no circumstances am I doing this,” Leonard said.
Leonard said Carle’s unvaccinated workers will be directed to provide feedback on why they haven’t been vaccinated. He said that will help Carle Health decide if the healthcare system should strengthen its requirement.
“We will have to make that hard decision: Do we set up a disciplinary process? We haven’t decided that yet,” Leonard said.
Leonard says the healthcare provider will use feedback from unvaccinated staff to determine if more strict vaccination rules are necessary.