(Update: More details from St. Charles spokeswoman, Absalon says 56 deaths in region last month)
Starting Oct. 18, unvaccinated visitors allowed only under 'extraordinary circumstances'
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- To further protect its patients and caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Charles Health System announced Tuesday it soon will require that visitors to any of its hospitals or clinics be fully vaccinated.
Effective Monday, Oct. 18, visitors will only be allowed if they provide acceptable proof that they are fully vaccinated. That is also the day that all health care workers are required to be fully vaccinated by the state of Oregon.
“We know what an important role visitors and support persons play in a patient’s healing process,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, the health system’s chief physician executive. “However, throughout this pandemic, safety has been our top priority. With this as our guide, we have had to make changes to our visitor policy to keep our patients, caregivers and others safe.”
A person is considered fully vaccinated if at least two weeks have passed since they received their second dose of a two-dose series (Pfizer or Moderna) or a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson).
Acceptable proof of vaccination is:A COVID-19 vaccination record cardA copy or digital picture of the vaccination record cardA print-out from the Oregon Health Authority’s immunization registryA screenshot or printout from an electronic medical record showing vaccination statusA St. Charles Health System badge with a COVID vaccination sticker
Unvaccinated visitors will only be allowed under extraordinary circumstances. This could include a visitor to a patient who is at the end of life, a parent of a pediatric patient, a “support person” as defined by Oregon law or an emergency response worker who may need to enter a hospital or clinic while on duty.
Currently, patients who test positive for COVID-19 are not allowed any visitors. This will continue to be the case, regardless of a visitor’s vaccination status, the health system said. Virtual visits for COVID-19 patients are still encouraged to support the family’s involvement.
All other patients have the right to at least one fully vaccinated visitor per day, provided the visitor is 12 or older. That same visitor may come and go throughout the same day.
“We want nothing more than to return to ‘normal,’ but we’re just not there yet,” Absalon said. “As a health system, we must continue to be hypervigilant about controlling the spread of the virus in our facilities. We owe that to our patients, many of whom are medically fragile, and to our hard-working caregivers, who put themselves at risk every day to care for our community.”
"We are experiencing a significant surge of COVID-19 patients in our region and in our hospitals," Absalon told NewsChannel 21. "So this pandemic is not over, in fact, we're in the worst surge that we've seen during the entirety of this pandemic. And just to kind of share with you, last month September, we had 56 deaths in our region from COVID-19, and this is the most we've had during any month during the pandemic."
Spokeswoman Lisa Goodman explained to NewsChannel 21: "Simply put, patients don’t need to be vaccinated, but visitors do. That applies to any St. Charles facility, whether a hospital or clinic, so this policy applies to the outpatient setting.
Responding to a KTVZ.COM commenter's Alzheimer’s patient scenario, Goodman said, "The patient would be permitted, but the person accompanying her would not (if not vaccinated) unless they are considered a 'support person' under Oregon law."
(A “support person,” she said, is a family member, guardian, personal care assistant or other paid or unpaid attendant selected by the patient to physically or emotionally assist the patient or ensure effective communication with the patient.)
Goodman also confirmed Tuesday that about 90% of the St. Charles Health System workforce is now fully vaccinated or has gotten the first of the two COVID-19 shots, up from about 76% in July. She said the health system is still reviewing vaccine exemption requests, but that the hospital system now has about 800 openings, up from 600 four months ago.