Franciscan Health to require employee vaccinations or immunity tests

Franciscan Health is requiring all employees, including about 4,100 in central Indiana, to get vaccinated or submit a lab test result showing they have immunity to the COVID-19 virus.

Franciscan has not announced the requirement publicly, but confirmed it Thursday in a statement to IBJ. In doing so, it becomes the latest hospital system in the region to require employees to get vaccinated, along with Indiana University Health and Community Health Network.

The Franciscan requirement seems to offer a little more wiggle room than policies at IU Health and Community, however, by allowing workers to provide test results showing immunity, rather than a vaccination card.

In a statement issued internally, it said all workers “will be required to submit a copy of their state-issued proof of vaccination or a Franciscan laboratory test result for a test performed in August affirming that they have a sufficient level of immunity to the COVID-19 virus.”

The health system said the requirement would be effective August 31. But it also said it is contingent on the Food and Drug Administration issuing a standard approval of the vaccine, instead of authorizing it for emergency use, which has been in place since late 2020.

The vaccination or lab test requirement covers all medical staff members, non-clinical administrative and support staff, volunteers, students and contracted workers.

Franciscan Health, based in Mishawaka, employs 19,000 people and operates 12 hospitals in Indiana and Illinois, including hospitals in Indianapolis, Mooresville and Carmel. It is one of the largest Catholic-based hospital systems in the Midwest.

“COVID-19 has taken 600,000 lives and infected more than 34,000,000 people in the United States,” the Franciscan statement read. “With the emergence of a new, more contagious delta variant making up 83 percent of new cases reported in our country, Franciscan Alliance’s leadership believes it is in the best interest of our patients, visitors, and staff to take the next step to promote and facilitate health and safety.”

It added: “We are convinced this decision aligns with our mission and is supported by overwhelming medical evidence.”

The health system said it does not know what percentage of its staff already has received a COVID-19 vaccine or have developed antibodies to the disease as a result of having contracted the virus. It said a recent voluntary survey did not produce enough responses to determine the level of protection within its system.

“We are grateful how our Franciscan family members who have made many personal sacrifices to provide safe, reliable and effective care during the pandemic,” the Franciscan statement said. “As we continue together on this most challenging journey, we have an obligation to those we are privileged to serve and  protect them and ourselves from the spread of this debilitating and deadly disease.”

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