Legacy Health’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign improves safety, reduces infections in communities
PORTLAND, ORE. – October 12, 2021 – Legacy Health has vaccinated 1,400 employees since announcing its COVID-19 vaccination requirement on Aug. 4 to reduce infections and protect the safety of Legacy’s staff, patients and communities.
Legacy has increased the vaccination rate among its 14,000 employees with at least one dose from 85% to 95% in the last two months under the vaccination requirement policy.
By mid-October, every Legacy employee who works with patients in our hospitals, clinics, imaging centers and labs will be fully vaccinated. That includes everyone from doctors and nurses to security officers and students to gift shop volunteers. Legacy strives to be the safest place to receive and deliver care to meet its mission of good health for the region.
“As nurses, we need to do everything we can to be healthy and present to help our patients heal,” said Kelly Pixley Keller, a nurse in the emergency department at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center in Gresham. “We’re here to make people better. Knowing that all my co-workers are vaccinated makes me feel safer, like I’m walking into a warm bubble where I can do my job.”
Health care workers have consistently had higher vaccination rates when compared to the general population. Yet, one-in-four hospital workers nationally had not been vaccinated when the Delta variant began spreading across the country this summer. That left health care workers and their patients, especially children, the elderly and the immunocompromised, facing risks inside of health care facilities.
With more than 400 million doses delivered in the United States, COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be a safe, effective way to reduce pain and suffering.
“As healthcare workers, we devote our careers to well-being, and there is nothing more important than preventing any unnecessary death,” said Seth Podolsky, M.D., Legacy senior vice president and chief medical officer. “I want to acknowledge our employees and physicians across the community who chose to get vaccinated after we announced our requirement. You have made a tremendous difference in our fight against COVID-19 in our communities. Without a doubt, we saved lives.”
Legacy recognizes that marginalized populations within our workforce have a historical mistrust of health care institutions that created hesitancy toward the vaccines. To support our employees in making informed vaccine decisions, more than 60 Legacy doctors, pharmacists, nurses, human resources leaders and others organized led an outreach strategy to address employees’ concerns. The outreach team hosted more than 15 virtual town halls with expert panelists for more than 1,800 employees, answered 280 employee calls on a confidential phoneline for one-on-one clinical consultations and attended department meetings to educate staff and administer vaccines. After the outreach effort, Legacy’s employee vaccination rate is 90% or higher across all identified races and ethnicities.
“We recognize that the decision to get a COVID-19 vaccine can be a difficult and deeply personal decision,” said Sonja Steves, Legacy’s senior vice president and chief human resources officer. “COVID-19 has illustrated social and racial injustices across health care, and Legacy has made a commitment to being a leader in helping reduce inequities in our communities. Our employee outreach shows how we can deliver personalized care to address each person’s unique needs.”
A majority of Americans, health care leaders and elected officials showed their support for a vaccine requirement for health care workers this summer as COVID-19 case counts rose during the Delta surge.
The American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and more than 50 other health care professional societies and organizations called on all health care employers to require their employees to be vaccinated in a July statement. The groups represent millions of workers across the health and long-term care professions, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants and hospice and home care workers.
In August, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced statewide vaccine mandates for health care workers with support from the Oregon Nurses Association and the Washington State Nurses Association.
Most patients support vaccine requirements for health care workers, too. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll from September shows that 62% of Americans say that hospitals and other health care facilities should require their workers to be vaccinated.
Canby resident Jane Mateski, a retired Legacy employee and current patient, grew concerned about visiting health care facilities when she saw workers on TV news saying they planned to remain unvaccinated. Legacy’s vaccine requirement, she said, “makes me feel very comfortable, very safe. People who work in health care are obligated to put the safety and welfare of patients above all else, particularly those who have direct patient contact.”
Health care employers in Oregon, Washington and across the nation are approaching deadlines to enforce their own vaccine requirement. Like at Legacy, hospitals are finding that the requirements are working. Vaccination rates are rising at health care facilities, leading to increased patient safety and decreased infections.
About Legacy Health
Legacy Health is a locally owned, nonprofit health system driven by our mission to improve the health of those around us. We offer a unique blend of health services – from wellness and urgent care to dedicated children’s care and advanced medical centers – to care for patients of all ages when and where they need us across the Portland/Vancouver metro area and mid-Willamette Valley. With an eye toward a healthier community, our partnerships tackle vital issues such as housing and mental health. Legacy strives to help everyone live healthier and better lives, with the vision of being essential to the health of the region. For more information, visit www.legacyhealth.org.