By Diana Diamond
Sutter and PAMF — protect your patients from coronavirus — not just your employeesUploaded: Jan 22, 2022
For months, I declared that I would not write about the COVID-19 virus and its variants because we are bombarded with daily reports in the press, and on daily radio and TV news programs.
But a new coronavirus issue came to the forefront: exposure to the virus at a local medical clinic.
I had an appointment for minor eye surgery at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, where I was being prepped by a nurse. She stood above and peered into my face, dilated m eyes, then put some numbing jelly on my left eye, then more jelly and then some drops. During this 10-minute process, we were talking about COVID and I mentioned the new Jan. 30 booster mandate at PAMF. “Do you have your booster yet,” I asked?
“No,” she replied. Why not? “I need more data, she said.” Why? “Because I need to feel comfortable about the shot, sand I have to know long-term effects of these vaccines. Until then, I don’t trust getting the shot,” she replied.
I disagreed with her, politely. Aren’t you worried about getting the virus? Are you aware you may be a carrier and others may get the virus because you inadvertently are spreading it?
“No,” she replied.
I forgot to ask her if she received the initial two COVID vaccine shots, but based upon her reasoning, it would suggest she had not. And here she was working daily with patients at a medical care facility. And if she waits five years to find out the long-term v effects after getting a jab will mean she will have a long wait, during which she may be a carrier, inadvertently spreading the airborne virus to others, like me – and you.
After I got home, I became angry. For the past 23 months, I have been extremely careful about COVID exposure. No more parties (even outdoors), no more having friends and relatives over, no more going out for lunch with friends. My husband and I became hermits. . I was motivated to live this isolated life because I feared that I would be one of those who had the D variant, and end up gasping for air, days and nights.
And then I needed the eye surgery. It stupidly never dawned on me to ask if all physicians and nurses there had their three shots (two of the Moderna or Pfizer shots, or one of J&J – plus the booster vaccination. Obviously, some on the medical staff were not up-to-date, hence the Jan. 30 mandate.
Those who “need more data” may declare they have their freedoms, but their rights stop when they endanger my right to stay healthy. They don’t have a right to contaminate me.
I asked Dr. Robert Nordgren, CEO of Sutter Bay Medical Foundation, what their current policy is and will be. The January 30 mandate is the rule, he said. And if a person refuses? Nordgren said the case would be sent to HR, and then the individual has seven days with pay to get the shot, and if that does not occur, then seven days without pay.
And then? HR will handle it and it could lead to dismissal.
Let me interject here that the pandemic is having a serious effect on health care facilities. Physicians and nurses are getting sick, causing reduced staffing, staff scurries around rearranging schedules (and not always succeeding), while trying their best to care for patients. Not an easy job these days.
I wonder, don’t nurses and physicians have a moral obligation to let a patient know they have not been fully vaccinated, including the booster? HIPAA rules say the employer (Sutter) cannot force an individual to reveal any personal medical information, Nordgren said.
So I guess the lawyers advising Sutter are saying PAMF is like any other employer, and medical in privacy must be observed. But a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision said heath entities, unlike other businesses, can issue employee mandates. So I reason that the Court has separated out health care facilities from other employers.
Then I wondered if I could ask a physician or a nurse if they had the two vaccines and the booster shots. My logic is that restaurants, museums, and other public facilities are asking people to show their COVID vaccine cards to gain entry into a restaurant and apparently no one has said that’s a violation of HIPPA rights, so why can’t you or I ask a doctor or nurse the same question. In other words, if they, the private establishments, can ask to see the card, why can’t a public person, like me, ask the same question.
Just asking. But I think much more thought has to go into questions like I am asking. After all, the goal is not just to protect the privacy of the employee, but also protect an individual (the patients, in this case) from serious exposure to the corona virus.
Sutter, please get to work on this and help out your patients. You are a heath care facility