Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo Announces Vaccine Requirement


HOSPICE & PALLIATIVE CARE BUFFALO ANNOUNCES VACCINE REQUIREMENT Buffalo, N.Y., August 9, 2021 – As a trusted healthcare provider for the most vulnerable members of our community, including children, Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo announced today, August 9, 2021, it will require all staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19 in two phases over time. Up until this point the organization has strongly encouraged vaccination for employees with over an 80% vaccination rate. This policy has now been revised as the more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant has become more prevalent while the COVID-19 vaccine has also been proven safe and extremely effective against moderate to severe symptomatic infections, hospitalizations, and death. The first phase of the Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo’s COVID policy will be adopted immediately and will require twice-weekly testing for all unvaccinated staff. Once the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) gives full approval to a COVID-19 vaccine then vaccination will become mandatory unless an employee obtains an approved medical or religious exemption. This phased approach will allow unvaccinated individuals the time and opportunity to seek more information and consult with their physicians until full FDA approval occurs. “Keeping staff, patients, and their families safe and healthy is the top priority and obligation for the organization. As a trusted healthcare provider, we must do even more to protect our extremely vulnerable patients as well as our colleagues. The mandatory vaccination is consistent with this obligation,” said Christopher Kerr, M.D., CEO, Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo. “Hospice and Palliative Care Buffalo's important step to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for all staff will protect their patients, their families, and the staff who provide such important clinical care in our community,” said Erie County Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “A system change, such as this, creates a meaningful public health intervention that significantly reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission.” As more healthcare systems across the country are adopting mandatory vaccination policies, Hospice’s decision was based on two ethical principles. The first was medical beneficence or the moral duty to promote the course of action that is believed to be in the best interests of the patient. The second principle was non-maleficence, where the medical practitioner has a duty to do no harm or to allow harm to be caused to a patient through neglect. Taken together, these principles support the position that an individual’s right to autonomy regarding COVID-19 vaccination ends when his or her actions would harm others, explained Dr. Kerr. “I believe our organization has a moral obligation to: 1) to ensure safety, and COVID-19 vaccination can reduce viral transmission thereby promoting health and safety (beneficence) and 2) to provide care for patients and do no harm; vaccination would reduce harm by limiting the spread of COVID-19 infection (non-maleficence),” he added. Community health leaders and Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo’s board of trustees and leadership team have been engaged in discussions on how to solve these moral and ethical dilemmas while protecting the health of patients, families, and colleagues, and their feedback has been unanimous in support of mandatory vaccination. Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo cares for the most vulnerable people in the county and is taking the lead in this effort while encouraging other healthcare systems and businesses to do the same. “Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo is doing the right thing in making sure its employees protect the patients they serve. Of course, 225 Como Park Boulevard, Buffalo, NY 14227 hospicebuffalo.com vaccinated employees are also protected themselves from serious illness and death due to COVID-19. This is a no-brainer, frankly. Healthcare workers need to get vaccinated”, said Nancy Nielsen, MD, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Health Policy, University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and Member of the Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo Board of Trustees and Executive Committee.