MMH talks COVID-19 census, related deaths, vaccine mandates

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MIDLAND, Texas (Nexstar)-Midland Memorial Hospital held a news conference Tuesday to update the community on coronavirus hospitalizations. The hospital said it continues to see a decrease in the number of patients hospitalized with the virus, however, related deaths remain high. 

As of Tuesday, the hospital said it is caring 36 patients in its various COVID-19 units. The hospital said 21 of those patients have active infections, while 15 are convalescing while recovering from complications of the virus. The patients range in age from 27 to 84 and about 86% of those hospitalized are unvaccinated, according to the hospital. 

The hospital has seen a welcome decline in the number of hospitalized patients in recent weeks, however, the death rate remains high. So far in October, MMH has had 19 COVID-19 related deaths. Over the weekend, the hospital lost eight patients with the virus. In September, the hospital reported 36 coronavirus related deaths, the second highest number of deaths reported since the beginning of the pandemic. Hospital leaders say the Delta variant is driving this wave of coronavirus related deaths. 

“Patients that had been in the hospital for a very long time, the long haulers, they’re past the point of infectivity, but still ventilated…they just succumb to the multi-system organ failure that can be experienced by critically ill patients. The Delta variant is more transmissible, and it’s more lethal,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Larry Wilson. 

To try and combat this, the hospital continues to encourage everyone eligible to get vaccinated. The vaccination clinic at the F Marie Hall Outpatient Surgery Center has availability this week and anyone wanting a Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson and Johnson vaccine is encouraged to call 221-4VAX to schedule an appointment. 

Further, the hospital said it has a good supply of the monoclonal antibody infusion treatment and that prior restrictions for the treatment have been loosened amid an ample supply.

“If you test positive, please come see us,” said Chief Operating Officer Stephen Bowerman. 

To see if you are eligible for the treatment, click here

Hospital leaders and employees are encouraged by the declining COVID-19 census, but a new challenge may be on the horizon as staffing concerns remain amid a looming federal vaccine mandate. 

On Monday, Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning private companies from mandating vaccines. 

“No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19,” Abbott said in his executive order.

However, the hospital said it is waiting for guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

“I feel like we’re in the middle of a tug of war battle between the federal and state governments. Both agencies have sticks that they can swing at us if we don’t comply with their mandates,” Bowerman said. “I think for us, at this point, CMS swings the biggest stick. They hold our license; they can pull our license. But I can’t say for sure what we’ll do if we have conflicting mandates.”

For now, the hospital said there is no mandate in place, but with only 73% of all employees vaccinated, there is concern some employees may walk if vaccines are ever required.

“If there’s not a path away from that vaccine, there is some concern that we could lose some employees,” Bowerman said. 

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