Very few health-care workers on Cape Cod have been fired for refusing to comply with vaccine mandates, according to spokespeople at three major providers.
The vaccination rates among staff at Outer Cape Health Services, Cape Cod Healthcare, and Spaulding Rehabilitation are now all reported to be at or above 96 percent. Unvaccinated workers were granted exemptions for religious or medical reasons.
Outer Cape Health Services, with clinics in Provincetown, Wellfleet, and Harwich Port, reported that 98 percent of its employees are fully vaccinated. Five of OCHS’s 250 employees applied for and received exemptions and are tested weekly, according to Senior Communications Officer Gerry Desautels. No staff were let go for failing to comply, and vaccination is required for all new hires, he said.
OCHS employees who sought religious exemptions were required to provide “a statement of their belief and the religion or religious doctrine it is based in,” Desautels said in an email. Those exemptions are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In August, the Diocese of Fall River announced it would not issue letters for members of the Catholic Church seeking a religious exemption.
Those who applied for disability exemptions were required to submit a letter from a health-care provider within the scope of the provider’s practice “citing the specific reason as to why they cannot medically receive the vaccine.” People with permanent disabilities seeking exemptions are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Desautels said.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only a handful of rare allergies make the Covid-19 vaccine unsafe. “Like one in a million,” Dr. Peter Chin-Hong told CBS News in September.
Desautels said that, for confidentiality reasons, he could not disclose whether the five OCHS employees who received exemptions have direct contact with the public.
One hundred percent of staff at Spaulding Rehabilitation’s Orleans and Hyannis facilities are vaccinated, according to Director of Communications Timothy Sullivan. Not every staff member is vaccinated at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Sandwich. But, Sullivan said, the number there is in line with the 99.3-percent compliance rate at Mass General Brigham, which owns Spaulding.
Sullivan said that no employees were fired at Spaulding in Orleans or Hyannis, but some employees in Sandwich were. He said that the number of fired workers was in line with Mass General Brigham’s organization-wide figures. The parent company, which has 80,000 employees, terminated 430 of them (0.5 percent) for choosing to remain unvaccinated. Last month the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to Mass General Brigham’s vaccine mandate brought by a group of the fired employees.
Cape Cod Healthcare had over 200 of its more than 5,000 employees claim exemptions, according to Senior Vice President of Communications Patrick Kane. In September, before the mandate was in effect, the Cape Cod Times reported that the number of unvaccinated employees was 500. Kane declined to say where the remaining unvaccinated employees who claimed exemptions work. Cape Cod Healthcare runs Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital and has over 100 other facilities from Orleans to Bourne. Kane did note that four employees declined to follow the mandate and left the organization.
Desautels and Sullivan both noted that their organizations had strong vaccination numbers among staff even before the mandates. Nationally, health-care workers are more likely to be vaccinated than ordinary Americans, but prior to the mandates in September, 30 percent of health-care workers were unvaccinated, according to the CDC.
Each of the three Cape health organizations implemented their own private mandates separate from those taking place at the government level. Those mandates are ensnared in legal challenges. The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs, announced this fall, is currently being challenged in Missouri and Louisiana federal district courts. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicaid Services stopped enforcing that mandate, which applies to 17 million health-care workers, on Dec. 2.
The administration’s plan to require Covid vaccinations for private companies with 100 or more employees, issued by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is also on hold. On Nov. 6, a New Orleans federal appeals court said the order was too broad, calling it a “one-size-fits-all sledgehammer.” That mandate would apply to 84 million American workers.