COVID-19: Valley Regional Hospital to require vaccine for employees

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/1/2021 9:32:18 PM
Modified: 9/1/2021 9:32:23 PM

CLAREMONT — Valley Regional Hospital is requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of October, according to a news release.

The Claremont hospital, which has 348 employees, joins most other Upper Valley hospitals, including all members of the Lebanon-based Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system, the White River Junction VA Medical Center and Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, in issuing such a requirement. In the Upper Valley, only Cottage Hospital in Woodsville and Springfield (Vt.) Hospital have not issued vaccine mandates for workers.

Valley Regional’s mandate includes all employees, volunteers, contract workers, students and medical staff. There are exceptions to the policy for medical or religious beliefs. In announcing the requirement, the hospital said it was doing so for the health and safety of the community, patients and staff. It also said that the vaccines are “safe and highly effective” and the best way to stop the spread of the virus.

“I am proud of our staff and the manner in which they have persevered throughout this pandemic,” Dr. Jocelyn Caple, Valley Regional’s interim CEO, said in the release. “This additional step sends the message to everyone we employ and the people we treat that Valley Regional is here to do everything possible to protect the health of our community.”

Valley Regional’s announcement comes as models are showing that hospitalizations, primarily of unvaccinated people, in the Twin States are expected to rise to peak levels last seen in January, Dr. Michael Calderwood, chief quality officer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, said in a video posted to Youtube on Tuesday.

The delta variant is causing both higher rates of COVID-19 transmission and higher rates of hospitalization than previous strains, Calderwood said.

“This is why the vaccine is so important at this time,” he said.

Employees of D-HH are due to be fully vaccinated by the end of this month. If they choose one of the two-dose vaccines, Pfizer or Moderna, the deadline for getting a first dose was last week.

On Friday, Dr. Joanne Conroy, CEO of D-HH, sent an email to employees celebrating the Food and Drug Administration’s recent full approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

“We hope that this will be reassuring to members of our staff who have been waiting for this announcement,” Conroy wrote. “We have an ample supply of the Pfizer vaccine available in our COVID-19 vaccine clinics, and employees may request the Pfizer vaccine if that is their preference.”

She also acknowledged that some employees are considering leaving D-HH due to the vaccine mandate.

“That is a heartbreaking option for everyone concerned, and it is one that I refuse to accept,” she wrote. “We want to keep you here, and we want to understand what gives you pause about being vaccinated and what barriers we can help remove.”

A D-HH spokeswoman did not respond to questions this week about what percentage of D-HH workers remain unvaccinated and how many workers have received exemptions to the vaccine requirement. At the time D-HH announced its mandate in early August, about 20% of D-HH’s 13,000 workers were unvaccinated. D-HH includes Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, New London Hospital, Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor, Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire, and 24 D-H clinics in the two states.

Conroy urged those who have questions and concerns about the vaccines to talk to their health care providers and pointed them to a link to an online frequently asked questions. She also acknowledged that, like health care providers around the country, D-HH is facing staffing shortages and other challenges.

“Patients are angry, and everyone is tired,” she wrote. “These are issues we are working to solve. However, I am certain that if we remain committed to working together, collaborate and support one another, we will end the pandemic.”

Cedar Hill resident dies amid outbreak

WINDSOR — One resident of Cedar Hill Health Care has died in an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak at the Windsor nursing home, according to the community’s executive director.

The outbreak includes a total of 23 residents and 11 employees, said Patricia Horn, executive director of Cedar Hill Continuing Care Community, which includes the nursing home. All of the residents and eight of the workers involved in the outbreak are fully vaccinated.

Most of the cases have been asymptomatic to moderate, but one resident has been hospitalized and another is on oxygen at Cedar Hill.

Three workers have recovered and returned to work. No employees have been hospitalized. They are recovering at home with zero to moderate symptoms.

NVU-Johnson students shift to remote learning

JOHNSON, Vt. — Students at the Johnson campus of Northern Vermont University will be studying remotely through the end of the week.

In a Tuesday message to the school community, interim President John Mills said the move to fully remote classes came after two cases of COVID-19 were reported among residential students.

WCAX-TV reported that in addition to fully remote classes, all school athletics and on-campus activities are canceled through the weekend.

Students at Northern Vermont University, which is a part of the Vermont State Colleges and includes a campus in Lyndonville, are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

State statistics from 14 of the 16 colleges and universities in the state show that 92.3% of students are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

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