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NLH officials applaud First Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Maine’s health care worker vaccination requirement

More than 97% of Northern Light Health’s workforce is fully-vaccinated for COVID-19.
Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 2:16 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - The First U.S. Circuit Court of appeals has declined to stop the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers in Maine.

They now have little more than a week to comply or face losing their jobs.

Northern Light officials say 130 employees have quit, so far.

A three-judge panel rejected a request Tuesday for preliminary injunction, saying that opponents of the vaccine mandate were unlikely to succeed.

This decision came on the same day as the U.S. Supreme Court declined an emergency request to intervene.

Officials at Northern Light Health say when it comes to their health care workers, more than 97% of employees are fully vaccinated.

They’re still working with the remaining 3%.

The Supreme Court left the door open to another appeal as the state prepares to begin enforcing the mandate on October 29th.

”Northern Light has supported the vaccine mandate and has supported the state’s decision to mandate as they have done. We have chosen to comply with that and we see that as prevailing and certainly Northern Light has been named as one of the defendants in that lawsuit so that’s good news from our point of view,” said Paul Bolin, Senior Vice President for Northern Light Health.

Governor Janet Mills released the following statement in response to the First Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision affirming the District Court of Maine’s decision in Doe v. Mills:

“Vaccinations are the best tool we have to protect the lives and livelihoods of Maine people and to curb this pandemic. Health care workers perform a critical role in protecting the health of Maine people, and it is imperative that hospitals and other settings take every precaution to protect workers and their patients against this dangerous virus, especially in view of the highly transmissible Delta variant. Anyone who is placed in the care of a health care worker has the right to expect – as do their families – that they will receive high-quality, safe care from fully vaccinated staff,” said Governor Janet Mills. “This rule protects health care workers, their patients, and our health care capacity in the face of this deadly virus. Just as vaccination defeated smallpox and vaccination defeated polio, vaccination is the way to defeat COVID-19. As Pope Francis said, getting vaccinated is an ‘act of love’.”

The 1st Circuit decision comes a week after a federal judge in Maine upheld the vaccination mandate. The 1st Circuit rejected an emergency request to intervene Friday but agreed to allow additional arguments.

The Liberty Counsel, which filed the lawsuit in federal court in Maine, claims to represent more than 2,000 health care workers who don’t want to be forced to be vaccinated.

“Maine’s interest in safeguarding its residents is paramount. While we do not diminish the appellants’ liberty of conscience, we cannot find, absent any constitutional or statutory violation, any error in the district court’s conclusion that the rule promotes strong public interests and that an injunction would not serve the public interest,” the 1st Circuit concluded.

Most health care workers have complied but several dozen have opted to quit over the mandate, and Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston already curtailed some admissions because of a shortage of nurses. Nearly 97% of Maine emergency medical workers are vaccinated against COVID-19, Maine Department of Public Safety said Wednesday.

State agencies vowed to work with hospitals and nursing homes individually to address issues. That includes working with the facilities on recruitment and retention of workers, said Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

“We have seen significant improvements in the vaccine rates in our hospitals and long-term care facilities,” she said.

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