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St. Luke’s to require first vaccine dose by September 1

“COVID’s just another vaccine that is going to be important so that we can provide safety for each other and safety for those we serve”
Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 7:24 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — St. Alphonsus, Primary Health Group and St. Luke’s are now mandating employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

St. Luke’s is requiring at least one dose by September 1 of this year.

The health system says nearly 80% of their employees are vaccinated, but it’s just not enough.

The organization is seeing more employees call out of work due to COVID-19 positive test, and with the Delta variant, officials say there is a heightened need for the vaccine mandate now.

“COVID’s just another vaccine that is going to be important so that we can provide safety for each other and safety for those we serve,” said St. Luke’s President and CEO Chris Roth.

Idaho is an “work at-will” state and it is legal for these employers to require vaccines.

“If such a lawsuit is brought, we do feel comfortable in the position that we have relative to why we’re doing it,” said St. Luke’s Chief Legal Officer Christine Neuhoff.

In Texas, a federal district court judge dismissed a lawsuit in June brought against Houston Methodist Hospital for requiring employee vaccination.

The decision is being appealed, but 153 workers were terminated. Is St. Luke’s concerned this could happen to them?

“Yes we’re worried about it, yes we’re going to bring every resource to bare to try to keep our team with us and together,” said St. Luke’s Chief Physician Executive Dr. Jim Souza.

In a Facebook post, Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin sent a letter to the Scott Bedke, the speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives to consider reconvening the Idaho legislature to discuss vaccine requirements.

KMVT caught up with Speaker Scott Bedke (R-District 27) to hear his response.

The Oakley native said it is a complicated issue, but he understands both sides and will take the request under advisement and do more research about the legal side of the topic.

He did stress Idaho’s “work-at-will” status.

“Getting in the middle of the relationship between employers and employees is against the basic tenants of the Republican Party.” Bedke said. “We allow that to function in an open market kind of way. We’ve also gone through great lengths as the state of Idaho to reduce red tape and reduce government regulation to make Idaho business friendly and anything that moves away from this ‘at-will’ status, or the ‘right-to-work’ status, I think harms us in that way.”

For vaccines, there are exemptions for medical conditions and tightly held religious beliefs.

St. Luke’s says, historically, under two percent of their employees use these exemptions.

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