PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - The deadline for staff at Legacy Health to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is Thursday, and some nurses who were counting on a religious or medical exemption are finding that request has been denied.

An email dated Sept. 27 informed Hildi Espino that her request for a religious exception to Legacy Health's vaccine requirement was denied.

"Looking at that letter, of course I was appalled that I wasn't approved," Espino told FOX 12.

A registered nurse, Espino says she's been with Legacy since 2015. She says she feels that taking the COVID-19 vaccine is against her religious conscience.

"I believed that I had used scripture and created an argument that was understandable, genuine, and would be judged according to my religious beliefs, and I had faith in the system," she said.

Espino isn't along is seeing her exception request denied. According to the Oregon Nurse's Association, other Legacy nurses are reporting what they call "blanket vaccine exemption rejections," with nurses at Legacy Silverton Hospital saying every religious exemption request in the hospital's labor and delivery department has been denied.

"It feels wrong, what is being expected of us and the huge losses we're taking," said Espino.

For its part, Legacy says it has completed a thorough review of all employee requests for vaccine exceptions. In a statement, a spokesperson said "Legacy's number one priority is patient and employee safety. In anticipation of the potential impact to our staffing, Legacy has developed a series of contingency plans across all of our facilities to minimize the impact on patient care."

Espino, meanwhile, says hospitals were already short-staffed before the pandemic, and losing more nurses now because of a vaccine mandate will only make things worse.

"Making a huge decision like this as a healthcare institution is going to have a huge impact on patient care," she said.

The Oregon Nurse's Association says nurses with concerns about a rejected exemption request should file a complain with the Bureau of Labor and Industries.

FOX 12 learned more about the process Legacy uses to evaluate requests for a vaccine exemption. Espino provided a letter which Legacy emailed to her. The letter says when evaluating requests, they remove names from the documents, then send them to a work group for review.

The letter states the work group uses the following criteria: consistency or whether the employee received other vaccines recently and look to see if the religious belief is clearly state and specifically against the COVID-19 vaccine.

Once a request is denied, the letter says workers have three options:

  • Either keep their job by getting vaccinated
  • Take no action and be placed on leave Oct. 1, then be fired as soon as Oct. 19
  • Or resign in writing.

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