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Incentives boosted hospital staff vaccination rates in South Florida. Mandates did more

Daniel Chang, Miami Herald on

Published in Health & Fitness

Memorial Healthcare System, the public hospital network for South Broward, raised its employee vaccination rate after adopting a new policy in August that awarded $150 to employees who took the shots by Oct. 1. Those Memorial Healthcare employees who chose not to get vaccinated have to wear a mask while indoors and attend meetings virtually.

The new policy helped raise the vaccination rate among Memorial Healthcare’s 14,000 employees from about 61% in August to nearly 88% in November, said Margie Vargas, the health care system’s chief human resources officer.

Vargas said Memorial Healthcare stayed away from a mandate and instead chose a path of persuasion through educational programs, question-and-answer forums, and no financial penalties.

“We did not want to create a punitive state,” Vargas said. “We know that doesn’t work.”

Vaccine mandates work

But South Florida hospitals that adopted a vaccine mandate did achieve higher vaccination rates than those that did not.

 

Baptist Health reports that 94% of employees have been vaccinated, and about 5% received an approved exemption for religious or medical reasons. About 120 employees, or less than 1% of Baptist Health’s workforce, did not comply with the mandate and resigned, said Dori Alvarez, a spokeswoman.

Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami also announced an employee vaccine mandate in August via a memorandum to staff. The memo said those who failed to comply by Oct. 15 and did not have a qualified exemption would be “subject to progressive corrective action up to and including termination.”

About 70% of Nicklaus Children’s 3,886 employees were fully vaccinated at the time. Rachel Bixby, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said the employee vaccination rate as of November is 98.2%.

However, those employees who refused the vaccine have not been fired. Bixby said in an email that unvaccinated employees are required to be tested for COVID-19 “routinely.”

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