The COVID-19 vaccination deadline for thousands of employees across the state is late Monday, forcing healthcare facilities across Washington to struggle to sort through remaining compliance records and take stock of potential cuts in services.
Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer said Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer said during a Monday briefing that immunization rates for hospital workers are high across the state, although rural eastern Washington is expected to be harder hit by the mandate.
The Association of Public Hospitals reported last week that about 88% of hospital workers were fully vaccinated. While Sauer did not receive an update on compliance Monday, she said there was “some movement” in a group of workers who were partially vaccinated, pending an exemption request, or had yet to submit vaccine validation information.
“Some of the partially vaccinated people were given a second shot,” she said. “… There was a lot of activity at the end of last week, over the weekend and probably until the end of today.”
The Hospital Association said last week that it expects to lose between 2% and 5% of the hospital’s staff – 3,000 to 7,500 employees – due to the mandate. But on Monday, Sauer said the score could be higher.
As of Monday, hospital officials said about 98% of Seattle Children’s medical staff and 99% of UW Medicine medical personnel were fully vaccinated.
At UW Medicine, about 220 employees will either be laid off or laid off after Monday in connection with the mandate received, Dr. Tim Dellitt, the hospital’s chief physician, said during the briefing.
“This is impressive,” he said. “… On the one hand, we are very pleased with the level of vaccination, but this is a lot of work, and I do not think that when the governor published the proclamation, perhaps we foresaw all the logistical problems associated with the implementation of this law by now. … “
Concerns remain about vaccination compliance for long-term care workers, as well as emergency workers and firefighters – groups that have reported lower immunization rates in the past few weeks.
“This can create a kind of cascading effect on hospitals if patients cannot get to the hospital, or cannot be hospitalized, or need to move, or if long-term care cannot accept patients who need to leave the hospital,” Sauer said. …
While hospitals are examining the impact of the mandate on their staff, the decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state has begun to slow, with little or no decline in the number of patients intubated. There were 1,025 COVID-19 patients in Washington hospitals as of Monday, Sauer said, up from 1101 last week.
“We would like them to shrink faster,” she said.
According to the latest comprehensive coronavirus data from the State Department of Health, hospital admissions declined by about 15% per week from early to mid-September following the peak of the recent delta wave. However, in the first week of October, the number of hospitalizations fell by only about 6% from the previous week, to an average seven-day rate of about 11 hospitalizations per 100,000 people.
The virus continues to kill 10 to 15 Washingtonians a day, Sauer said. A total of 8,234 people in the state have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
“This is also a decline, and this is good news, but it’s still a ton,” Sauer said. “… If someone shot 10 to 15 people a day, or if there was a car malfunction that killed 10 to 15 people a day in our state, I think the public reaction would be overwhelming.”
She added, “This is all tragic.”
Infection and hospitalization in eastern Washington also remain high, said Reza Kahlil, chief executive of Kadlec Health System at Tri-Cities, who said more than 90% of its employees are fully vaccinated or have an approved exemption.
The number of hospitalizations in Kadlec has dropped slightly, Kahlil said, but this is partly due to the fact that they have seen more recent deaths.
“We are experiencing 21 months of this pandemic, and I think there is a sense of numbness or annoying tolerance to see these numbers every day, whereas at the beginning of the pandemic, they really resonated with society,” said Dellitt of UW Medicine. “And I think it just shows the long-term nature of this pandemic and the impact it has.
“But we cannot lose sight of the impact each of these deaths has on not only their families, but our entire community.”