WENATCHEE — Confluence Health has updated its COVID-19 vaccination policy, increasing accommodations available for people with disabilities and religious beliefs.
In October 2021, Confluence Health — the region’s largest health care system — enforced the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, resulting in 23 resignations, 138 rejected exempted applications and 229 approved exemption applications.
The exemption initially was for employees to either take a 12-week leave of absence or work from home, if possible.
A group of 100 former Confluence Health employees in April filed a lawsuit in Douglas County Superior Court in response to the policy, arguing that Confluence failed to accommodate workers’ religious and medical exemptions.
Judge Brian Huber dismissed the case in November because it did not cite a “clear public policy that supported their claim for wrongful discharge,” according to his decision.
But now, Confluence Health has increased the options available to staff and providers to be eligible for employment, according to a news release Friday.
Under the new policy, current or former employees who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an approved accommodation — disability-based or a sincerely held religious belief — are eligible to apply for any open position they are qualified for, according to the news release.
“What this accommodation looks like can vary depending on the job’s circumstances or the employee’s need but, so long as the exemption and accommodation are approved, the position is available if open and the person is qualified,” said Adam MacDonald, Confluence Health communications manager, in an email.
It is not clear what the accommodation looks like for all employees approved to work onsite with a religious or disability accommodation.
MacDonald said that the change in vaccination policy is not connected to staffing issues.
“This change in policy reflects our shift in status within the wider pandemic and the needs of our communities,” said Dr. Jason Lake, chief medical officer of Confluence Health, in the news release. “While vaccinations continue to be vital in our ability to address the needs of public health, the transition to a post-pandemic world allows us greater flexibility in requirements moving forward.”
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