In an attempt to further protect frontline workers from contracting COVID-19, Centura Health is offering a $500 bonus to any employee at all 17 of its hospitals who gets a COVID-19 vaccine.
This includes those who may have received their shots months ago. “We've seen other health systems, starting in May, mandating the vaccine. We're trying our best to stay away from a mandate. From all the data we've seen mandates only increase hesitancy,” president and CEO Peter Banko told CPR News
About 100 employees at Centura Health have been hospitalized so far with COVID-19, with three dying throughout the whole pandemic. Some 30 to 40 workers are also out now due to testing positive or having had high-risk exposure. The incentive program is expected to cost around $7 million but is considered a better alternative by the healthcare system due to the challenges other hospitals have faced when implementing mandates.
More than 170 employees at Houston Medical were recently suspended without pay for two weeks
in early June for refusing to comply with the healthcare system’s mandate that all employees be vaccinated. Instituted in April, the policy made Houston Medical the first healthcare system in the nation to make the vaccine a mandate and led to a lawsuit that was thrown out, and more than 150 workers resigning or being fired, according to the Washington Post
About 70% of Centura’s 20,000 employees have been vaccinated, according to Banko, who wishes to see this figure rise above 90%. A spokesperson for the healthcare system told CPR News that the organization’s highest vaccination rates were among employees that deal with patients directly. This includes physicians, advanced practice providers and nurses, who average above 80% vaccination. System and hospital leaders are also vaccinated at similar rates.
The $500 bonus will go to those who have already been vaccinated and those who have had their first dose by July 16 and their second by August 16. This leaves a month for those who are “maybe still on the fence to make some decisions,” Banko told CPR News.
“We don't want anybody to be hospitalized, die, or have any long-term health and well-being impact,” said Banko, adding he thought the number will go even higher by “providing a little bit of incentive and encouragement to get the vaccine.”