AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — All employees at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 8. The Department of Veterans Affairs was the first major federal agency to mandate its healthcare workers to be vaccinated. That guidance was recently expanded to include all employees working for the Veterans Health Administration.
“It’s an extra safety level to ensure those that are caring for our veterans have the vaccine and have the extra safety,” Dr. Jennifer Blanchard, the Chief of Pharmacy at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, explains.
Employees can be exempt from vaccination for religious or medical reasons. They will be tested weekly for COVID-19 and be required to wear masks. However, those who are not exempt and choose not to comply could face termination.
“If they don’t want to do it, unfortunately, that is putting our veterans and fellow workers at risk. There are some defined disciplinary actions that may be pursued up to removal in some cases.”
The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center is the only hospital in Augusta requiring vaccinations. They are strongly encouraged at University Hospital, Doctors Hospital and Augusta University Medical Center.
“This is a decision that the University System of Georgia has made in conjunction with the state’s Department of Health, Dr. Brooks Keel, the president of Augusta University, said earlier this month. “But, at the same time, it’s also about individual rights. We certainly want to respect that. It’s a person’s own body that we’re talking about and an individual right as whether to be vaccinated.”
Hospitals requiring vaccinations around the country have seen employees quit, creating staffing shortages at a time when they need all hands on deck. However, Blanchard says she is not concerned that will happen at the Charlie Norwood VA.
“We’ve had a really great response to the vaccine here by our employees,” Blanchard says. “About 80 percent of our employees have been vaccinated. I don’t anticipate that we’d see an issue.”