Sunday, August 14, 2022

Rural Washington hospital workers lag in COVID vaccinations, new survey shows

While the vast majority of Washington hospital employees have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, rural hospitals are seeing much lower immunization rates among workers, according to a new study of hospitals and health systems.

According to the Washington State Hospital Association, as of Monday morning, 88% of hospital workers had produced proof of vaccination. Results include data from 94% of state hospitals collected after October 4. The survey covers all employees of Washington State hospitals – both inpatients and outpatients – and does not include independent doctors’ offices, dental offices, and military hospitals. and several other types of healthcare facilities.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced in August that all health care workers must be fully vaccinated by October 18 or face “undisciplinary firing” for failing to meet job requirements.

The remaining 12% of hospital workers include those who are partially vaccinated, have an approved exemption and accommodation, have applied for or are planning to apply for an exemption that has not yet been reviewed, have not yet provided proof of vaccination, or have decided not to do so. get vaccinated.

Additional information on the specific breakdown was not immediately available Monday morning, although the hospital association said it believed 2% to 5% of the hospital’s staff – 3,000 to 7,500 employees – could leave the state due to a mandate.

WSHA CEO Cassie Sauer said in a briefing on Monday that rural Washington hospitals are likely to be the most impacted.

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Newport Hospital and Health Services in East Washington near the border with Idaho, for example, could lose up to 10% of its staff, including about 50% of its 15-person rehabilitation services division, COO Christina Wager said in a briefing.

Most major resource hospitals in Seattle are seeing fairly high vaccination rates, including UW Medicine, which said Monday that 98% of its medical staff are fully vaccinated.

Counties east of the Cascades have significantly higher incidence rates for seven days, according to the State Department of Health’s COVID-19 statistics dashboard. Among those with the highest infection rates are Ferry Counties, Garfield, Columbia, Grant and Pend Orielle, where infection rates range from 360 to 582 per 100,000 as of last week. In comparison, King County recently had 92 cases per 100,000 population.

About 400 UW Medicine employees have applied for an exemption from this mandate, and about a third of them have been granted, Chief Physician Dr. Tim Dellit said during the briefing.

According to Sauer, if workers begin the vaccination process but are not fully immunized by the deadline, hospitals are more likely to send them on unpaid leave rather than be fired right away. In many healthcare facilities, she said, staff will be able to use vacation time while they wait for a full vaccination.

Final vaccination data for the state will not be available until early to mid-November, the hospital association said.

“Hospitals in Washington continue to urge their employees to provide life-saving COVID-19 vaccines,” Sauer said in a statement. “We are delighted that most hospitals and healthcare systems have achieved high vaccination rates, which will allow patients to continue to have access to life-saving care throughout Washington State.”

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In a recent survey, hospitals were also asked to share details of the perceived impact of staff losses on patient care. In response, several hospitals said they would need to cut or consolidate some services, such as ongoing delays for non-urgent procedures and longer waiting times for outpatient appointments.

Cases and hospitalizations continue to decline across the state, although the rate of decline “has slowed significantly,” Sower said Monday.

“There are fears that the situation may improve at a really high level,” she added.

Since the peak of the recent delta wave, the state as a whole has seen a decline in new COVID-19 cases by about 10% per week, Sauer said. However, last week, the state recorded a decrease in the number of new infections by about 2%.

In addition, the death rate in Washington remains quite high – between 15 and 20 deaths a day, she said.

Hospitals, meanwhile, continue to postpone various treatments, including cancer or transplant procedures, to cope with patient pressures and staff shortages.

“It’s likely to get worse,” Sauer said. “If the number of COVID cases continues, it will also reduce the burden on hospitals. … But we will see a few more delays due to vaccine requirements. “

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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