Legacy 794 puts workers on system-wide leave

Hundreds of people filled the sidewalks outside Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center Friday afternoon in protest of the first day unvaccinated employees were placed on furlough.

Thursday marked the deadline for Legacy Health employees to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination or to obtain an approved medical or religious exemption request. Those who did not comply were placed on unpaid administrative leave starting on Friday and could lose their jobs on October 19.

According to Legacy, 794 of its system-wide employees have been placed on furlough. Of those 794, Legacy said, 180 employees have received their first dose of the vaccine and can return to work once they are fully vaccinated.

Eligible for reemployment

As of Friday, the hospital system said 94 percent of its staff had been fully vaccinated.

Spokesman Ryan Frank said staff and patient safety is Legacy’s top priority and that employees would be eligible to be rehired if they chose to vaccinate.

“All 14,000 caregivers have worked tirelessly to care for our patients and the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Frank said. “To all of our healthcare workers, we cannot express our gratitude enough. Their contributions and sacrifice are too many to be measured. We are so grateful for their service and contributions to Legacy.”

Greg Michael, a registered nurse at Salmon Creek, holds a sign Friday outside the hospital. His request for religious exemption from the vaccination mandate was denied. He was joined on Friday by his brother, Gavin Michael, and their 9-month-old son who was born in Legacy.

He was disappointed that the hospital he described as “a great place to work” would release him after volunteering his time there for years before he was hired as a nurse.

“If they bring me back,” he said, “I will.” “If things turn upside down, I want to go back.”

Gavin Michael described it as “frustrating” to watch his brother go to school and work hard to get his position at the hospital, but lose his job less than a year after he started.

Nursing my dream

In the letter to staff whose requests for religious exemption were denied — which some employees shared with The Columbian — hospital leadership said their requests were denied on the basis of consistency — whether they had previously received a vaccine — and the specifics of their religious beliefs.

But three workers in the women’s services department said they did not think it should be up to their employer to determine how serious they are about their religious beliefs. They staged a sit-in in front of the hospital on Friday after being put on leave before losing their jobs within two and a half weeks.

Erica McClure said she is now looking for another place to work and expects to move out of the area to find a hospital that will grant her religious exemption. I worked at Legacy for eight years.

“I just have to follow my dream of nursing wherever it takes me now,” she said. “Nursing is my dream, and I won’t give up on it.”

The hospital website also lists services that are incorporated due to employment. Legacy Lab Patient Service Center locations in Camas, Beaverton, and Ore. and Lake Oswego and Ore. and West Linn, Ore. , Temporarily closed in order to relocate staff to other locations. Salmon Creek Medical Center is strengthening ultrasound services, according to Legacy.

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