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Bon Secours will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all its workers
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Bon Secours will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all its workers

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Governor and Bon Secours vaccine arrival

Gov. Ralph Northam joined by Bon Secours Director of Pharmacy Kelly Sweet after the first batch of vaccines arrives at a Bon Secours hospital in Richmond in 2020.

Bon Secours, the area’s second-largest private employer, will require its local workers to be vaccinated, the health system announced Thursday.

The choice follows the lead of many other health systems in Virginia and was made after the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine and the rise in delta variant cases.

“This decision is based on our firm belief, grounded in scientific evidence, that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh any potential risks,” the health system said in a statement. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread through our communities, our priority is to protect our associates, providers, patients and their families, loved ones and our community.”

A deadline for vaccination has not been announced but will likely come this fall.

The Greater Richmond Partnership, an economic development organization, ranks Bon Secours the second-largest private employer in the region, with 9,000 employees; Capital One ranks first, with 13,000. It’s unclear if the ranking includes contractors and whether it lists full-time equivalent employees or total headcount.

Bon Secours’ decision also applies to the heath care providers who work at Bon Secours facilities but aren’t employees of the health system. It’s unclear how many total workers the mandate affects.

There are five Bon Secours hospitals in the region: St. Mary’s Hospital in Henrico, Memorial Regional Medical Center in Hanover, St. Francis Medical Center in Chesterfield, Richmond Community Hospital in Richmond and Southside Medical Center in Petersburg.

Two more hospitals are included in the requirement, Southern Virginia Medical Center in Emporia and Rappahannock General Hospital in Kilmarnock.

Asked what would happen to employees who refuse to be vaccinated, a health system spokesperson said the company is still figuring out the details. Whether Bon Secours knows how many of its associates are already vaccinated, she did not say.

Bon Secours’ Hampton Roads market, which operates three hospitals, announced last month it would require associates to get the shot. At the time, the health system said it would likely set a deadline in the fall.

The move comes a month and a half after the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association called for all health systems in the state to require vaccinations. Last month, Virginia Commonwealth University Health, Inova Health System in northern Virginia and three systems in Hampton Roads announced requirements.

HCA, a for-profit system in the Richmond area, does not require its employees to be vaccinated.

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Eric Kolenich writes about higher education for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He joined the newspaper in 2009 and spent a decade as a reporter in the Sports section. (804) 649-6109

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