FARMINGTON — Health care workers across the state are reckoning with a new mandate from Governor Mills that they be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1.

According to Sun Journal’s Emily Bader, “workers at all state-licensed hospitals, residential care facilities, home health agencies, dental practices and emergency medical service organizations” are required to get the vaccine or face job loss.

This has raised concerns that hospitals, doctors offices, and emergency medical services will face staffing shortages due to the mandate.

Barb Sergio, chief operating officer of Franklin Community Health Network (FCHN), does not share that concern. According to Sergio, around 72-75 percent of staff in the network are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Sergio said FCHN is currently assessing how many workers they expect will leave their positions due to the mandate, but that they “don’t anticipate any shortages as far as shutting down services or anything like that.”

In fact, Sergio said that since MaineHealth implemented a vaccine mandate prior to the Mills administration, the number of FCHN workers vaccinated against COVID-19 has gone up a few percentage points.

Nevertheless, Sergio is anticipating resignations.

“I think every place will,” Sergio said. “There will be some people that just refuse.”

On a weekday afternoon at Franklin Memorial Hospital, some workers seemed to be in favor of the mandate, or felt unaffected by it.

Tania Dawson, a clinical educator in the health network, believes this mandate is akin to the many things health care workers need to do to stay in their job.

“I think everybody who is in health care has been mandated to do a lot of things including getting vaccinated for hepatitis B, which most people don’t get vaccinated for,” Dawson said.

Louisa Hoyt, a pharmacist at the hospital, agreed that it’s a part of the job.

“We’re used to that with flu vaccine mandates,” Hoyt said.

Hoyt believes that it’s “a public responsibility” for health care providers to be vaccinated.

Hoyt feels removed from the mandate because she was vaccinated early on.

“I haven’t paid too much attention to the details of it,” she said.

Nevertheless, Hoyt understands the concerns surrounding the mandate.

“I think the way it’s presented can be difficult for people at times,” Hoyt said. “There might have been a better, more (politically correct) way to roll it out, possibly.”

Still, some in the county are on the fence, or outright against the mandate.

Sarah Carrozza, a health care worker in Wilton, says that she plans “to work up till I’m fired October 1.”

“We need Mills to know that we are already understaffed and even a ‘small’ number who will be losing their job will be detrimental to our health care system,” Carrozza said.

Kali Staier is weighing her options and considering moving to a different field.

Staier works in environmental services as a cleaner for the health network and is not yet vaccinated due to concerns about her medical conditions.

Staier isn’t opposed to an employer such as FCHN requiring staff be vaccinated, but is unhappy about the government’s involvement in the matter.

“I wish that it wasn’t something the government was doing,” Staier said. “I wish they left it up to individual employers to decide what they do and don’t do.”

Staier said that among the people she works with, opinion runs 50-50 on the mandate and beliefs about the vaccine.

However, “most of the people who are vaccinated aren’t fans of the fact that the government is mandating it,” she said.

Until Sept. 17, which is the deadline for workers to get their final shot, Staier will be doing research on how she could be affected by the vaccine and deciding if a career move is right for her.

Sergio, for her part, suggests that any FCHN workers on the fence seek out their medical provider or other medical professional — “someone who’s got some real knowledge” — about “the validity” and rollout timeline of the vaccine, which she understands is “a real fear and concern for people.”

Sergio ultimately believes that the vaccine mandate is about safety for patients and staff alike.

“It’s up to every individual to make a choice. I’m a health care worker, I’m a registered nurse, so I make the choice based on what I believe is best personally and for my patients,” Sergio said. “I believe personally that vaccines are good and I believe in this particular vaccine.”

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