MCH, ORMC weigh in on vaccine mandates

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ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar)- Medical Center Hospital and Odessa Regional Medical Center held a news conference Monday to update the community on coronavirus hospitalizations. 

MCH says it is caring for 98 patients with the virus as of Monday afternoon. 24 of those patients are ventilated. The patients range in age from 17 to 88 years old. ORMC says it is caring for 28 patients with COVID-19. Nine of their patients are on a ventilator. 

As for deaths, MCH said it has had three patients die since September 9 from coronavirus complications. ORMC is reporting nine deaths so far for September.

Overall, coronavirus hospitalizations have started to drop in recent weeks, but they have not stabilized. Hospital leaders say we are not out of the woods yet. 

“Notice how these numbers kind of go up and down a little bit,” said Dr. Rohith Saravanan, Chief Medical Officer for ORMC. “So, we asked the question last week, have we stabilized? Have we reached the peak? The answer to that question still remains the same, which is, we don’t know. We’re hoping, but we don’t know. As you can see, over the weekend, we’ve had a slight increase overall in the community. So, it’s something to pay attention to and be very careful of.”

Even if coronavirus hospitalizations do level off soon, hospital leaders are still concerned with staffing. As of Monday, MCH said it has 17 staff members in quarantine, while ORMC has 11 staff members out. 

Now that President Joe Biden has mandated that all hospital workers be vaccinated, hospital leaders are concerned they may soon lose staff who are still hesitant to get the vaccine. 

“Right now, we can’t afford to lose anybody, no matter if that’s sickness, moving to another town, changing careers; we’re at such a crisis level staffing that we can’t afford to lose anybody,” said MCH Chief Executive Officer Russell Tippin. “To lose somebody over a situation like this would only increase our problem when we try to do things like surgeries. Anything that handicaps us from moving forward is a challenge. We’ve seen examples in New York City where hospitals aren’t able to deliver babies anymore because their entire staff has resigned because they don’t want the vaccine. If it’s mandatory, they’d rather quit.”

For now, both hospitals are waiting on guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services before moving forward with mandatory vaccines. Both hospitals say that guidance should came by October. And when it does, Saravanan says, “Hospitals will have to follow through.” Those hospitals that do not may lose federal funding. 

Caught between a rock and a hard place, hospital leaders say they don’t want to lose staff, but they do support voluntary vaccinations. 

“ORMC fully supports the vaccination process, and it is a critical tool in fighting the spread of COVID-19. We just don’t know how the federal guideline will translate into policy and procedure locally for our hospitals,” said Saravanan. 

MCH says 62% of its staff members are fully vaccinated. Over at ORMC, 63% are fully vaccinated. 

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