ST. LOUIS – As part of a commitment to the health and wellbeing of anyone who walks through the door of a Mercy facility, Mercy’s team is now 100% vaccinated, minus co-workers who received a religious or medical exemption but who undergo rigorous masking and protective equipment protocols and frequent testing.
“By requiring all co-workers to be vaccinated, we are making sure anyone who walks through any door of any Mercy facility is better protected from COVID-19,” said Dr. John Mohart, Mercy’s chief clinical officer and senior vice president. “What we all know is that when you visit a doctor’s office or hospital, you’re often already compromised in some way – whether it’s a cold or cancer or diabetes. That makes it even more urgent for us to make sure Mercy does everything possible to protect our patients, visitors and co-workers. It’s our responsibility as a health care organization to make our spaces as safe as possible. We take that responsibility very seriously.”
As of today, Oct. 28, all current and future Mercy co-workers are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an approved medical or religious exemption. Mercy announced the vaccination requirement in July, giving co-workers more than three months to meet this standard. On Oct. 1, any co-worker who had not been vaccinated or received an approved exemption was placed on a 28-day unpaid suspension with full benefits and given the opportunity to follow the policy.
“We have done everything possible to assist our co-workers in doing the right thing for our communities and for each other,” said Dr. Jeff Ciaramita, Mercy’s chief physician executive and senior vice president. “Ultimately, it was their decision. Like the flu shot, which is also required, we know this is the only decision for a health care organization.”
Five-year-old Lottie Gross, born with a congenital heart defect, has had 23 operations and multiple hospitalizations for respiratory illnesses. Mercy Clinic pediatrician Dr. Scott Melson has been her physician since she was a baby.
“Our family is extremely careful when it comes to limiting exposure to protect our little girl’s health,” said Rachel Gross, Lottie’s mom. “It’s been almost two years and we are still isolating and only gathering with vaccinated friends and family. It brings a huge sense of relief to know her health care team is vaccinated and that her doctor’s office is a safe place to bring her.”
Of more than 40,000 co-workers, less than 2% made the decision to remain unvaccinated.
“We prepared for this and knew we would unfortunately lose some of our co-workers,” said Jeremy Drinkwitz, president of Mercy Hospital Joplin. “Patients come to us to get better, not to catch an illness. Our communities trust Mercy to do the right thing and to take care of them. We’ve seen firsthand what COVID does to people, and we’re not going to be a part of spreading it further or putting lives in danger in our hospitals and clinics where we live.”
In making COVID vaccines a requirement, Mercy joins many other health care organizations and companies across the country who mutually recognize COVID vaccination serves the common good, protects patients and is crucial to safeguarding public health.
“When you come to a Mercy facility, you can feel confident you’re safe,” Dr. Ciaramita added. “Virtually all of our co-workers have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, making it highly unlikely that our co-workers would spread the virus. Everyone wants to return to some kind of normalcy after the world has been turned upside down by this pandemic. This is a step in the right direction that we hope others continue to follow.”
Mercy, one of the 20 largest U.S. health systems and named the top large system in the U.S. for excellent patient experience by NRC Health, serves millions annually with nationally recognized quality care and one of the nation’s largest Accountable Care Organizations. Mercy is a highly integrated, multi-state health care system including more than 40 acute care, managed and specialty (heart, children’s, orthopedic and rehab) hospitals, convenient and urgent care locations, imaging centers and pharmacies. Mercy has 900 physician practices and outpatient facilities, more than 4,000 physicians and advanced practitioners and more than 45,000 co-workers serving patients and families across Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has clinics, outpatient services and outreach ministries in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.