Letter to editor: Consequences to passing vaccine-related legislation

Devils Lake Journal

Dear Editor, 

At any point in time, the mission of a hospital is to provide the greatest level of care to its patients.

As several health care providers across the state have implemented vaccine mandates for their employees, this has been done with the utmost consideration for the health and safety of those employees and patients served. Mandating vaccines has been considered carefully along with individual rights. Exemptions for religious and medical reasons have been thoughtfully respected. To protect our staff and the patients we serve, we continue to use every available tool known to prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 including wearing masks and visitor restrictions.

Our physicians, nurses, and other vital frontline health care workers are doing heroic work for our communities despite shortages in staff. We are immensely proud of and grateful for their work and the sacrifices made daily to care for others.

Vaccination requirements for health care providers and staff are not new. Hospitals have long required vaccinations for measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and influenza with remarkable impact on staff and patient safety. As is the COVID-19 vaccine, these immunizations are well-researched, safe and provide extensive protection from the greater risk of illness.

We value the work of our state legislature, which remains committed to excellent health care in the state, prioritizing its quality, accessibility, and affordability for all North Dakotans.

As our legislature enters a special session, we now ask that policymakers carefully consider the consequences of passing vaccine-related legislation at this time, especially policies that may impede our ability to keep employees and patients healthy.

Removing a private business’ ability to require a vaccine for employees would jeopardize the ability of our hospitals and clinics to safely treat those under our care. Further, creating legislation at a time when the pandemic is still spreading throughout our communities could negatively impact a future need or critical decision that ultimately protects our community from greater harm and loss.

Our state’s health care providers, while strained, are working tirelessly to provide critical care for our citizens. We ask that our leading policymakers respect the abilities and decisions made by these providers – North Dakota’s medical experts – to continue the fight against this pandemic and keep our communities safe and sound.

Sincerely,

Steven Weiser, M.D., Health Policy Consortium Board Chair Altru Health Systems President

Todd Schaffer, M.D., President & CEO, Sanford Health Bismarck

Bryan Nermoe, President & CEO, Sanford Health Fargo

William Heegaard, M.D., President, Essentia Health West Market

Kurt Schley, President, CHI St. Alexius Health

Tim Blasl, President, North Dakota Hospital Association

Joshua Ranum, M.D., President, North Dakota Medical Association