ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The governor’s deadline for hospital, long-term care, and correctional facility employees to be vaccinated came and went on Friday. So, how many complied? Who is enforcing the mandate?
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According to the governor’s Public Health Order that went into effect August 17, employees in these industries had to get the first shot of the vaccine by Friday, August 27, 2021. “We know that the pandemic is not over and we are in a pivotal moment in this state,” said Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham at the August 17 press conference.
KRQE asked all three metro-area hospitals how many of its employees are vaccinated, how many are exempt from the vaccine mandate, and how many chose not to comply and are now out of a job. Presbyterian Healthcare Services said at least 97% of its workforce is vaccinated or has met medical or religious exemptions.
“We estimate that very few of our more than 13,000 employees will choose to go on leave due to the vaccine mandate. Although we never want to lose any of our valued employees, we are confident that we can continue to meet the health care needs of our patients and members,” said Amanda Schoenberg, Corporate Communications Manager at Presbyterian Healthcare Services, in an emailed statement.
“At University of New Mexico Health, more than 95% of our staff is fully vaccinated or exempted under the Public Health Order. We are following the Public Health Order as required. A few employees have made the decision to separate from the organization at this time. We appreciate their service and thank them for their work. We know vaccines work and we continue to encourage all eligible New Mexicans to get vaccinated,” said in-part Mark Rudi, Media Relations Manager at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences.
“In an effort to meet the governor’s new public health order, which was effective August 27, nearly 100% of Lovelace Health System employees who were required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or present a medical or religious exemption have complied with the order,” said Serena Pettes, VP of marketing/Business Development at Lovelace Health System.
None of the area hospitals provided specific details on how many employees are exempt or chose not to comply. Dozens of hospital workers come out last week to protest vaccination mandates. “It’s not against anything or anyone or any organization. It says that people should all have their right, their own right to choose what happens to their bodies,” said one of the protest organizers, Melanie Rubin, at the protest.
Genesis, the company that owns the most long-term care facilities in the state, employs about 2,100 people in the state. It said some employees didn’t comply with the vaccine mandate and were terminated, while a ‘small’ number received exemptions. But when asked, it didn’t get specific details. It said 100% of its staff is now vaccinated.
Eric Harrison, a spokesperson with the state’s corrections department, said on August 17, about 84% of its workforce was vaccinated. He said they are still gathering final numbers but said as of Friday, August 27, only a couple dozen of its more than 2,000 had yet to show proof of vaccination or request an exemption.
Under the Public Health Order, facilities themselves are required to keep records of staff’s vaccination or exemption status and only need to provide those records if the Department of Health requests it. KRQE asked the governor’s office how the state plans to ensure facilities are abiding by the vaccine mandate.
“The state has various mechanisms for holding accountable non-compliant entities as outlined under the state statutes authorizing the emergency powers under the All Hazard Emergency Management Act and as exemplified at various points throughout the course of the pandemic,” said Nora Sackett, Press Secretary for Governor Lujan Grisham.
KRQE asked Sackett how many Office of the Governor employees complied with the order. She said KRQE would have to file an Inspection of Public Records Act, known as an IPRA request, for that answer. It can take about two weeks to get that information.