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Unvaccinated valley health care workers could lose their jobs as new mandate takes effect

Thursday marked the deadline for California health care workers to get fully vaccinated – and employees here in the valley who don't comply could lose their jobs.

The new state mandate announced last month is now in effect requiring all California health care workers to get vaccinated. Valley hospitals say anyone not meeting the requirement will not be permitted to work.

Desert Regional Medical Center's approximately 2,000 employees are nearing closer to 100 percent vaccinated.

"We find ourselves at 95% compliance with the governor's orders. And for folks ... who have already gotten their first dose, we're trending to be over 97% compliance," Chief Operating Officer Mike Ditoro said Tuesday.

Staff at JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio are 99% vaccinated.

Eisenhower Health declined to share exactly how many of its 5,000 employees are vaccinated.

A spokesperson for the Rancho Mirage hospital said Thursday "a majority" of the staff have gotten their shots though, and more are requesting to get vaccinated each day.

Last week, Dr. Alan Williamson told News Channel 3 the hospital was getting closer to compliance. "Over 95% of our employees are already fully vaccinated at this point, or at least have received their first shot," Williamson said on Sept. 21.

Up to 5 percent of Eisenhower Health employees have applied for medical or religious exemptions, Williamson said. But if they're denied, they could face termination.

In a statement, a spokesperson said, "Eisenhower Health continues to encourage staff to be vaccinated in order to maintain their employment... Their continued employment will require them to complete the vaccination process.."

Some Eisenhower employees have resigned, Williamson said, though it's not clear if that's because of the vaccine mandate.

Jim Leckliter and Andrea Oteri are both registered nurses providing health care in the valley. They have opposing views on the mandate.

"If you don't get the vaccine (and are not exempt), then health care is not the career for you; you should be terminated, in my opinion," Leckliter said.

"My thinking is if I get Covid, I get Covid," Oteri said. "I'd rather take that risk."

Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.

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