The parent of Ascension St. Vincent announced Tuesday it will require all employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19 by Nov. 12, becoming the last major hospital system in the Indianapolis area to lay down the requirement.
The announcement comes as the delta virus is surging across Indiana and the United States, with infections and hospitalizations on the rise.
The St. Louis-based organization, which is the largest Catholic health system in the United States, employs about 14,700 people in Indiana at more than 20 hospitals and dozens of outpatient clinics and doctors’ offices.
Nationally, it operates more than 2,600 sites of care—including 151 hospitals and more than 50 senior living facilities—in 21 states and the District of Columbia. It has about 160,000 employees in the U.S.
Just last week, a spokeswoman for Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis said the company was “strongly recommending” but not requiring vaccinations for employees. She said she did not have additional information beyond a statement issued by the corporate office.
Ascension’s decision to require vaccinations follows all three other major health systems here. Indiana University Health and Community Health Network last month announced a vaccination requirement for employees by September.
This week, Franciscan Health said it would institute a requirement once the Food and Drug Administration upgrades its approval on the vaccines from emergency use to standard use.
In its statement on Tuesday, Ascension said tens of thousands of employees have already been vaccinated. It did not say how many employees had yet to be vaccinated.
“But we must do more to overcome this pandemic as we provide safe environments for those we serve,” the company said in a statement.
Ascension said the vaccination mandate covers all people employed by the hospital system, along with people employed by subsidiaries and partners; physicians and advance practice providers; and volunteers and vendors entering Ascension facilities.
Ascension said the November deadline for getting vaccinated aligns with its annual influenza requirement. The company did not explicitly say whether employees who refused to get a vaccine would be terminated.
Ascension said in instances in which someone declines to get vaccinated due to a medical condition or strongly held religious belief, the company will provide a process for requesting an exemption.
The company said the vaccination requirement will be implemented in accordance with collective bargaining agreements reached between Ascension business entities and its unions. No Ascension facilities in Indiana are unionized.
“Together, we will put this pandemic behind us,” the company statement said, “so that we can continue to focus on meeting the needs of those who come to us for care.”