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Portland-area hospitals see bump in employee vaccinations as mandate deadline approaches

Under Oregon's vaccine mandate, health care workers have until Oct. 18 to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Hospital systems in the Portland area are seeing increases in their staff's COVID vaccination rates, as the Oct. 18 deadline approaches for Oregon's vaccine mandate for health care workers. 

Portland-based Legacy Health said the vaccination rate of its 14,000 person workforce has increased from 85% to 95%. The remaining 5%, which totals about 700 people, are on paid leave. About 140 people of them are currently in the process of getting fully vaccinated, according to a spokesperson with Legacy Health. 

The hospital system was one of the first companies in the Portland area to issue its own vaccine mandate that went beyond immediate employees and includes everyone the public interacts with at Legacy facilities, including volunteers, providers, students and vendors, according to VP and Chief Human Resources Officer Sonja Steves. She said the hospital system's firm stance has helped increase their vaccinations.

RELATED: COVID vaccine mandate helps drive up vaccinations in SW Washington

“From early August we have tried to be extremely clear about the consequences and our commitment to having an environment that is 100% vaccinated,” she added.

Hundreds applied for religious or medical exemptions at Legacy but a majority were rejected. Steves wouldn't say exactly how many, but she anticipates lawsuits to try and stop the mandate.

Legacy is hoping the hold outs will change their minds and get vaccinated.

“We will— when they meet that requirement— we will welcome them back and... if it’s within a year we will honor all of their years of service as a rehire,” Steve said.

Here's how vaccination rates at other hospitals have increased since Oregon's mandate: 

  • Kaiser Permanente: Before the mandate 79% of its roughly 11,100 workers were vaccinated. After the mandate, the number moved to 89%. About 170 Kaiser employees are on unpaid leave.
  • Providence: its vaccination rate moved from 80% to 90% of their 23,000 employees
  • OHSU: the mandate moved the vaccination rate from 86% to 94% of 22,000 employees and students.
  • Salem Health reports their vaccination rate moved from 75% to 88% 

RELATED: Here's how many Washington hospital workers will meet COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadline