Rural healthcare facility worried about potential impact of vaccine mandate on staffing

Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 5:14 PM EST
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APPLING COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - About four million federal workers face a Nov. 22 deadline to get vaccinated, but it’s another mandate that goes into effect in January that’s getting reaction in Appling County.

Federal rules now require staff at health care facilities to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4. It impacts all facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid. This is separate from the private business mandate that’s on pause right now.

Patients at Appling Healthcare and small hospitals around the country would almost immediately see the impact if even a handful of employees opt to leave rather than get a COVID-19 vaccine if it’s mandated by the government.

Administrators say they’ve watched and waited as Washington D.C. outlined a plan that would require any hospitals that received federal money, like Medicare or Medicaid, to require employees to get the COVID vaccine.

“We’ve heard the talk in the hallway as employees responded to the news, social media, and other information,” interim CEO Andrea Graham said.

Last week, Appling Healthcare emailed more than 300 employees the details of how it would affect them and the timeline that would require a first dose by early December and second dose by Jan. 4.

“It’s frustrating for these mandates to come out when we’re already working as short staffed as we are.”

They informally asked employees who would or would not comply by then. Graham says roughly one third responded they’ll leave. She says it would put pressure on the hospital to move remaining employees to acute/critical care and the hospital nursing home where regulations require patient/staff ratios.

“We would not be able to provide some of the outpatient services that we do provide for our patients and residents because we would have to choose where we’d move staff, too,” Graham said.

She says they’ve advocated for everyone to get vaccinated, and they’ll continue to do it as well.

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