MMH talks Biden vaccine mandate, hospital capacity

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MIDLAND, Texas (Nexstar)- Midland Memorial Hospital held a news conference Friday to update the community on coronavirus hospitalizations. 

As of Friday, MMH is caring for 93 patients with COVID-19. 30 of those patients are on a ventilator. The patients range in age from 26 to 91. 

MMH says about 13% of patients in its care are from surrounding counties. With an overall census of 242, the hospital is still having to turn down some patient transfer requests from surrounding hospitals. 

“Just to illustrate the challenges we are having in dealing with transfers that need to come in from the surrounding communities, the week of August 22, we had 113 transfer requests and we denied 99 of them,” said Midland Health Chief Executive Officer Rusell Meyers. “Of course, as the hospital census gets better and goes down, we’ll be able to accept more transfers…when our capacity is down, when we’re full of COVID patients, our ability to support those hospitals around us goes down dramatically.”

For now, hospital leaders do not expect the census to drop anytime soon. The positivity rate at the MMH testing center remains about 25%. 

“That indicates we’re still not out of the woods. There will be more admissions that come from those positive tests,” Meyers said. 

Staffing challenges also remain, with 24 staff members sick with the virus in quarantine, the hospital may soon be facing loss of staff when new vaccine mandates are enforced. 

Thursday, President Joe Biden ordered sweeping new federal vaccine requirements for as many as 100 million Americans, from private-sector employees as well as health care workers and federal contractors. 

MMH says about 72% of its staff members are vaccinated, while others are holding out due to medical or religious concerns. 

MMH is now waiting on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for guidance, but expects that soon, all hospital staff and volunteers without an exemption will be required by mandate to be vaccinated. 

“Until the rules are written, we really don’t know what we’re expected to do, but we’re going to step up and abide by the rules we’re given,” Meyers said.

When asked if the mandate could impact staffing, Meyers said, “We’re certainly concerned about the impact of the mandate. We’re not in a position to lose any staff and we certainly don’t want to, but it’s part of what we’ll have to deal with.”

Meyers said CMS should set vaccination requirements, along with approved exemptions, by October. 

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