Bend nurses facing termination at St. Charles over COVID-19 vaccine refusal – KTVZ

(UPDATE: Details added)

‘Natural immunity’ effectiveness vs. vaccine still being debated

BEND, Ore (KTVZ) — Two nurses and one CNA who work at St. Charles Health System in Bend and filed religious exemptions for the mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. They’ll be terminated, if they refuse to get a COVID vaccination.

Saren Love has been a medical floor nurse for nearly five years. Kari Derenzio is a nurse on the Progressive Care Unit and has worked for St. Charles for two and a half years. Natalie Strong has been a CNA for 5 years.

“I would go on an unpaid leave of absence starting on the 18th of October to be reviewed every thirty days,” Love said. “I will lose my benefits on October 31st. I no longer have a position. When the mandate expires which is on January 2022, I will be terminated.”

All three women said they’ve already had Covid-19 and have since built a natural immunity, though the effectiveness of natural immunity vs. the vaccine is still a matter of scientific debate. They say weekly testing and wearing personal protective equipment should be enough. 

“We got it and we recovered, and we’re still here doing the same job,” Strong said.

Love believes there isn’t enough focus on underlying health conditions that put people at higher risk of contracting COVID such as obesity, congestive heart failure, diabetes and other medical health concerns.

“We’re saying the one size fits all assembly line ideology of vaccination is not necessarily the best thing for our patients. These conversations do need to exist,” Love said.

Derienzo is a 3rd generation nurse. Both her mom and grandmother have worked for St. Charles Health System for more than 20 years.

They chose to get vaccinated, but Derienzo stands firm that it conflicts with her religious beliefs and that the government is over-stepping its power.

“I don’t think your employer should hold your job over your head because of your vaccination status,” Derenzio said.

St. Charles hasn’t said how many nurses applied for an exemption but does say about 91% are vaccinated.

Public Information officer of St. Charles Health System, Lisa Goodman, shared a statement:

“The state of Oregon has mandated that health care workers must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Oct. 18 to protect patients and the health care workforce as we continue battling our worst COVID-19 surge of positive cases yet. We are proud of the more than 91% of caregivers and providers who have already been fully vaccinated and have taken this important step to protect their health, their families, our patients and our community. We believe vaccination is the best way out of this pandemic.”