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Panama City, FL – Vaccination requirement spurs hospital staffing worries

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FILE – In this file photo from August 26, 2021, Parsia Jahanbani prepares a syringe with Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic operated by Families Together of Orange County in Santa Ana, California. An international group of scientists backs the average person does not yet need a COVID-19 booster – an opinion that highlights the intense scientific division on the issue. (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong, file)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Florida) – Two major Florida hospital systems say they will implement a plan announced by the Biden administration on Thursday to require hospital workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 – but concerns remain as to how that might affect recruiting.

Tampa General Hospital and the Tampa Bay area’s BayCare System said they would take action to comply, but BayCare CEO Tommy Inzina issued a “letter to the community” that described a ” conundrum “that hospitals faced due to severe staff shortages during the pandemic.

Inzina said BayCare encouraged people to get vaccinated but “had to balance the wider health care needs of the community – from childbirth to emergency departments – with the possible impact on staffing. a mandatory vaccine requirement “.

And while BayCare will execute Biden’s administration plan, Inzina has raised concerns that the vaccine’s mandate could result in workers leaving.

“The vaccine requirement will result in a higher staff vaccination rate, but it is still unclear how many healthcare workers this will prompt to leave the industry,” Inzina wrote. “In recent months, as our hospitals filled with record numbers of sick patients, we knew we risked alienating a significant number of our team members. If even a small fraction of our unvaccinated team members chose to leave the workforce rather than get vaccinated, we would have even fewer team members to care for patients, COVID or whatever. “

With Biden’s plan, however, “circumstances have changed,” Inzina wrote.

“As we have learned time and time again during this pandemic, we need to be flexible and adapt to the circumstances,” the letter said. “We will work to implement this mandate within the timeframes prescribed by the government and simultaneously ensure quality health care for our community.”

After announcing last month that it would require nursing home workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the Biden administration said on Thursday it would extend the requirement to hospitals and other types of healthcare facilities .

The Federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said providers, including hospitals, dialysis centers, outpatient surgical centers and home health agencies, will need to meet staff immunization requirements as a condition of participating in the programs. Medicare and Medicaid. The agency said an interim final rule is expected to be released in October.

Tampa General said in a statement that it has urged employees to get vaccinated since December and that 74% had received the vaccines as of Monday.

“Tampa General will continue to educate about the importance of the vaccine and make it readily available to all of our team,” the Tampa General statement said. “As with everything, the safety and care of our patients, team members and the community is our number one priority.”

The debate has been going on for months over whether hospitals and other healthcare providers should require employees to be vaccinated. The Ascension Health System, for example, issued a press release in late July saying it would require employees to be vaccinated by November 12.

“Ascension will require all associates to be vaccinated against COVID-19, whether or not they provide direct patient care, and whether they work at our care sites or remotely,” the statement said. “This includes associates employed by subsidiaries and partners; physicians and advanced practice providers, whether salaried or self-employed; and volunteers and vendors entering Ascension facilities.

But like the CEO of BayCare, the American Hospital Association released a statement Thursday raising concerns about the effects on staff.

“We look forward to reviewing details related to today’s (Thursday) announcement of these new policies with respect to the implementation, timing and need for appropriate exceptions to accommodate medical concerns. and religious, ”said Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. declaration. “In practice, this policy may lead to a worsening of the serious labor shortage problems that currently exist. Therefore, given the critical challenges we face in maintaining the resilience of our workforce and dealing with severe shortages, which the American Nurses Association has called a national crisis, we call on the administration to work. with us as partners to develop aggressive strategies and creative strategies to address this issue to ensure that hospitals and health systems on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 have the human resources to both win this battle and maintain essential health services for the patients and the communities we serve. “

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