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Summer Surge: Non-Urgent Surgery Postponement and State Vaccine Requirement

Similar to the rest of the country, Washington State is experiencing a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, predominantly in the unvaccinated population. This fifth wave of the pandemic comes at a time when hospitals across the state already face significant capacity challenges. In coordination with public health and other healthcare systems across our state, UW Medicine continues to respond to the ongoing pandemic and serve our community. We are incredibly grateful for and proud of your dedication to our patients and to each other amidst the continued toll of the pandemic.

Postponing Non-Urgent Surgeries

We wanted to update you on the proactive steps that UW Medicine and other healthcare organizations in the state are taking to build capacity and maintain our ability to safely care for those patients requiring hospitalization. First, UW Medicine is working with our physicians and operational teams to review all non-urgent surgeries scheduled through September 19 and postpone those procedures that can safely be rescheduled to a later date. We know that delaying a surgery or procedure can be difficult for our patients and their families, and we appreciate your role in helping them understand the reasons for this decision. Second, UW Medicine is partnering with state agencies to expedite finding providers to care for our patients who no longer need hospital level care. Third, UW Medicine is further increasing our recruitment efforts to ensure that we have the staff we need to deliver the high-quality care that our patients have come to expect.

New Vaccination Mandate for Employees

Vaccination against COVID-19 is the most important tool to end this pandemic. Vaccination is safe and remains extremely effective in decreasing hospitalizations and deaths even with the emergence of the delta variant. On Monday, in response to rising COVID-19 cases and the need to keep our patients and staff safe, Governor Inslee issued a proclamation mandating that all public and private healthcare workers be vaccinated by October 18. UW Medicine will be adhering to this mandate. It is important to point out the Governor’s proclamation limits exemptions only to medical or a sincerely held religious belief. Therefore, UW Medicine employees in the healthcare setting will no longer be able to claim a philosophical exemption. We expect all employees in the healthcare setting to adhere to the requirements of this mandate and for those that have yet to do so, we ask that you prioritize making your first-dose appointment and take the necessary steps to meet the October 18 deadline.

We appreciate the frustration, anxiety and uncertainty that a fifth COVID-19 wave brings and the impact it has on your life and the lives of our patients. It is your ongoing commitment to our patients and each other that will continue to drive us toward ending this pandemic. Thank you for all that you do to serve our community.

Sincerely,

Lisa Brandenburg
President, UW Medicine Hospitals & Clinics
Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Washington

Timothy H. Dellit, MD
Chief Medical Officer, UW Medicine
Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Washington
President, UW Physicians

Jeannine Grinnell
SVP, CFO, Interim CEO, Valley Medical Center

Sommer Kleweno-Walley
Interim CEO, Harborview Medical Center

Cindy Hecker
CEO, UW Medical Center

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