Fairbanks hospital to require COVID-19 vaccine for staff as it wrestles with full ICU

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital in Fairbanks, Alaska (Wikimedia commons photo)

Foundation Health Partners in Interior Alaska is the latest health care provider to require all of its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, said its board chair Jeff Cook.

Foundation Health Partners operates the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Tanana Valley Clinic and Denali Center.

The board approved the vaccine mandate on Wednesday, said Cook. He said it’s an expansion of a rule approved last month that required the shot for all new employees. 

The new mandate comes as Fairbanks Memorial, like many health care providers, is struggling with a maxed-out Intensive Care Unit and is having to divert some patients to other hospitals.   

“We’re having to look to Seattle, Portland and other areas,” Cook said. “But, unfortunately, it’s across the board, across the country.”

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Cook said Fairbanks Memorial, also like hospitals everywhere, is dealing with staffing shortages made worse by the surging delta strain.

“People with this variant too are much sicker,” he said. “It takes much more time and attention to take care of them.”

The situation is disheartening, he said. 

“It’s really tough right now and I just feel for our employees who are overworked and — to some degree, I think —underappreciated when people don’t look at the science and don’t wear masks and don’t get vaccinated,” he said.

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Many other Alaska health care providers are also requiring their employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, including Providence Health & Services Alaska, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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