Washington hospitals brace for thousands of employees to leave

Health

KIRO Seattle 11 October, 2021 - 08:42pm

Washington agencies continue making contingency plans due to vaccine mandate

KING 5 13 October, 2021 - 05:10am

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration is still working on a draft rule requiring all companies with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccines or weekly COVID-19 tests as conditions of employment — more than a month after President Joe Biden announced the rule was coming.

But recent struggles at companies and in cities that have already pursued their own vaccine mandates have highlighted some of the challenges that lie ahead for businesses that will soon confront the nationwide mandate.

An airline industry already hamstrung for months by pandemic-related staffing shortages is bracing for the potential of even more delays and canceled flights driven by departures related to vaccine mandates, which several major airlines have imposed.

A union representing Southwest Airlines pilots denied on Monday that a massive slate of delayed and canceled flights over the weekend was due to pilots protesting a looming mandate at the company by calling out sick — but speculation swirled that a so-called “sickout” had caused the meltdown.

United Airlines began the process of firing nearly 600 employees in early October as its vaccination mandate arrived.

The healthcare industry in some places has also scrambled to accommodate firings and potential firings of staff who refuse to take their shots under mandates.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul prepared an emergency plan for dealing with healthcare worker shortages as the deadline for the state’s vaccine mandate for the industry approached.

As many as roughly 50,000 hospital workers in New York remained unvaccinated as of Oct. 6, according to state data, and their fate was still unclear heading into the Friday deadline for healthcare workers across most types of healthcare facilities getting vaccinated.

In Erie County, New York, which encompasses Buffalo and is close to Niagara Falls, one hospital system suspended inpatient elective surgeries and almost all ICU transfers as it prepared for likely staff shortages ahead of the deadline.

A national vaccine mandate may be far more difficult to implement than the corporate, city, and state mandates that have emerged so far.

OSHA, the agency responsible for drafting and enforcing the rule, had just 862 inspectors on staff as of last year, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by NBC News.

Companies that run afoul of the vaccine requirements could face fines of nearly $14,000 per violation, according to administration officials.

But it’s unclear how OSHA will catch violations across the hundreds of thousands of companies to which the rule will apply.

Some experts have pointed to research that shows publicly naming businesses that break the rules can serve as a deterrent to other would-be offenders. According to one analysis, a press release from OSHA about a company facing fines can have the same effect on compliance as more than 200 inspections.

Another question that has plagued small business owners: who will foot the bill for weekly testing in the event some employees opt out for that option instead of getting vaccinated.

The Biden administration has not indicated whether it will pick up the tab for the testing its new rule requires of companies with unvaccinated employees.

Businesses could choose to pass the cost on to employees or pay for the tests themselves.

Delta Airlines used the threat of charging employees to remain unvaccinated to encourage more of its workers to take the jab and threatened to impose a $200 surcharge on workers who were still unvaccinated by November.

Critics have warned that current labor shortages could be made worse by the coming Labor Department rule, as existing mandates have suggested some workers will choose to leave their jobs rather than submit to the vaccine requirement.

Tags: News, Vaccination, Department of Labor, Joe Biden, Southwest Airlines, OSHA, Coronavirus

Original Author: Sarah Westwood

Original Location: Questions arise over vaccine mandate enforcement as multiple industries suffer

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Inslee encouraged by 'sky-high' vaccination rates among Washington employees

KING5.com 12 October, 2021 - 07:48pm

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TUMWATER, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he is “encouraged” by the state's employee vaccination rate that’s near 92%, a number that is expected to climb.

Under the governor’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, more than 60,000 state employees have until Monday, Oct. 18, to provide employers with proof of vaccination.

According the latest figures reported by the state’s Office of Financial Management, 91.87% of employees who need to be vaccinated to keep their jobs were verified as fully vaccinated on Oct. 4. That number increased from just 49.14% of employees verifying vaccination as of Sept. 6.

“The sky-high vaccination rates we’re seeing should settle any concerns. There will not be massive disruptions in state services,” Inslee said in a written statement.

But with nearly 5,000 state employees who have not provided proof of their vaccination status, state agencies are still making plans to deal with staff shortages next week.

If the Department of Veterans Affairs is short-staffed, new admissions to veteran homes might be suspended, and some veterans might have to be placed in nursing homes, according to documents released by the department.

The vaccination rate at the Washington Veterans Home in Bremerton is 88%, it’s 69% at the Washington Soldiers Home in Orting, according to the department.

The Department of Corrections (DOC), where the vaccination rate at the state penitentiary in Walla Walla is 85%, is “anticipating possible reduction in staffing and areas of limited operations,” according to DOC documents.

Listed as a concern in DOC’s “Staffing Contingency Planning” paperwork, the “number of confirmed vaccinated medical staff.”

State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler does not think state agencies will be disrupted by staff shortages.

“I think there will be people presenting on Monday their proof of vaccination,” said Kreidler.

His employees were not required to get vaccinated under Inslee’s mandate, but Kreidler implemented a similar rule for his employees.

“We’re at 97%,” said Kreidler, who expected to lose as many as seven of his 230 employees because of the mandate. Kreidler said human resource staffers across state government are working on contingency plans that he said won’t likely be needed.

“It’s pretty disruptive. If you’re vaccinated, walk in, give your card. Come on, save the taxpayers some money,” said Kreidler.

He said one of his employees who got vaccinated in March informed the human resources department this Monday. Kreidler said state employees are trying to make a point, to act like rebels.

“Of course, anybody who gives it a second look will roll their eyes and say that isn’t much of a rebellion,” said Kreidler.

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Hospitals projected to lose 2-5% of staff after vaccine mandate takes effect

MyNorthwest 11 October, 2021 - 06:29pm

The Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) expects between 2% and 5% of hospital staffers to leave after the COVID-19 vaccine mandate goes into effect next week.

WSHA CEO Cassie Sauer said this projection is based on a survey the association conducted last week after Oct. 4, the last day for people to get their shots to meet the Oct. 18 vaccine mandate deadline. The true number of staffers lost likely won’t be known until November.

“About 88% of hospital staffers said they were fully vaccinated. Others may still be in the process of getting vaccinated, may be seeking exemptions, or may have forgotten to report their vaccination yet,” Sauer said.

“2% to 5% is honestly better than many of us had thought might happen,” Sauer continued.

She noted that 2-5% is equal to roughly between 3,000 and 7,500 people, and not all of those leaving over the vaccine mandate will be nurses or other people who work directly with patients. Sauer observed that “it could be folks in accounting, or who are stocking the rooms, or keeping the rooms really clean, or working in food services.”

“But we also know that there will be services curtailed,” she warned.

Hospitals across the state have already seen serious treatments delayed over the summer and now into fall — such as appendectomies, tumor removal surgeries, and treatment for stroke patients — because of the COVID surge and the ongoing lack of staff.

“It’s likely to get worse. … I don’t know that we know for sure, but I think that we will see some more delays,” Sauer said.

Hospitals losing the greatest portions of staff are expected to have the biggest cuts in service and treatment. Sauer noted that some of the effects of the lost staff could include “closing down or really limiting outpatient services” and “longer wait times for services.”

“We could see some caps in inpatient admissions,” she described. “One hospital discussed whether they might need to close their dialysis unit, some psychiatric units.”

While a 2-5% loss is the statewide prediction, some individual hospitals are looking to be better than that — and others worse.

“The place that seems to have the likeliest biggest impact is rural Eastern Washington, from what we’ve seen so far,” Sauer said.

Newport Hospital, which sits in Northeast Washington on the border with Idaho, confirmed that. The hospital is in Pend Oreille County, in which just 37% of those 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

“Just because of where we are, we’re definitely going to see a higher percentage than 2-5%,” said Newport Chief Operations Officer Christina Wagar. “We’re looking at probably losing about 10% of our staff, which is extremely significant.”

Of that 10%, she said half of the hospital’s physical therapy department is likely to go, which may force people to drive to Spokane for physical therapy.

In contrast, Evergreen Health in Kirkland said 97% of its staff members are fully vaccinated.

“A continued decline in the COVID peak would help to bring back some of the care being delayed,” Sauer said.

“If COVID cases keep falling, that eases some pressure on hospitals as well, so it’s kind of a balance,” she added.

However, while COVID cases were falling steadily since the start of September, they appear to have plateaued — so there is no telling yet whether that promising downward trend will continue, freeing up staffers.

“We were seeing about a 10% decline every week in the past few weeks, and this very past week, we only saw a 2% decline,” Sauer said.

And even on the weeks where the charts show 10% drops, looks can be deceiving, she warned.

“One of the reasons that hospitalizations are going down is that people are dying. You’ve got 15 to 20 people dying every day in the hospital, that does contribute to hospitalizations going down,” Sauer said. “We do not want that to be the way that hospitalizations are going down. We want it to go down because people are not getting sick.”

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Hospitals projected to lose 2-5% of staff after vaccine mandate takes effect

KIRO Seattle 11 October, 2021 - 06:29pm

The Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) expects between 2% and 5% of hospital staffers to leave after the COVID-19 vaccine mandate goes into effect next week.

WSHA CEO Cassie Sauer said this projection is based on a survey the association conducted last week after Oct. 4, the last day for people to get their shots to meet the Oct. 18 vaccine mandate deadline. The true number of staffers lost likely won’t be known until November.

“About 88% of hospital staffers said they were fully vaccinated. Others may still be in the process of getting vaccinated, may be seeking exemptions, or may have forgotten to report their vaccination yet,” Sauer said.

“2% to 5% is honestly better than many of us had thought might happen,” Sauer continued.

She noted that 2-5% is equal to roughly between 3,000 and 7,500 people, and not all of those leaving over the vaccine mandate will be nurses or other people who work directly with patients. Sauer observed that “it could be folks in accounting, or who are stocking the rooms, or keeping the rooms really clean, or working in food services.”

“But we also know that there will be services curtailed,” she warned.

Hospitals across the state have already seen serious treatments delayed over the summer and now into fall — such as appendectomies, tumor removal surgeries, and treatment for stroke patients — because of the COVID surge and the ongoing lack of staff.

“It’s likely to get worse. … I don’t know that we know for sure, but I think that we will see some more delays,” Sauer said.

Hospitals losing the greatest portions of staff are expected to have the biggest cuts in service and treatment. Sauer noted that some of the effects of the lost staff could include “closing down or really limiting outpatient services” and “longer wait times for services.”

“We could see some caps in inpatient admissions,” she described. “One hospital discussed whether they might need to close their dialysis unit, some psychiatric units.”

While a 2-5% loss is the statewide prediction, some individual hospitals are looking to be better than that — and others worse.

“The place that seems to have the likeliest biggest impact is rural Eastern Washington, from what we’ve seen so far,” Sauer said.

Newport Hospital, which sits in Northeast Washington on the border with Idaho, confirmed that. The hospital is in Pend Oreille County, in which just 37% of those 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

“Just because of where we are, we’re definitely going to see a higher percentage than 2-5%,” said Newport Chief Operations Officer Christina Wagar. “We’re looking at probably losing about 10% of our staff, which is extremely significant.”

Of that 10%, she said half of the hospital’s physical therapy department is likely to go, which may force people to drive to Spokane for physical therapy.

In contrast, Evergreen Health in Kirkland said 97% of its staff members are fully vaccinated.

“A continued decline in the COVID peak would help to bring back some of the care being delayed,” Sauer said.

“If COVID cases keep falling, that eases some pressure on hospitals as well, so it’s kind of a balance,” she added.

However, while COVID cases were falling steadily since the start of September, they appear to have plateaued — so there is no telling yet whether that promising downward trend will continue, freeing up staffers.

“We were seeing about a 10% decline every week in the past few weeks, and this very past week, we only saw a 2% decline,” Sauer said.

And even on the weeks where the charts show 10% drops, looks can be deceiving, she warned.

“One of the reasons that hospitalizations are going down is that people are dying. You’ve got 15 to 20 people dying every day in the hospital, that does contribute to hospitalizations going down,” Sauer said. “We do not want that to be the way that hospitalizations are going down. We want it to go down because people are not getting sick.”

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems. They are usually only set in response to actions made by you which amount to a request for services, such as setting your privacy preferences, logging in or filling in forms.    You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not then work. These cookies do not store any personally identifiable information.

These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources so we can measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site.    All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.

These cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites.    They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Washington hospitals brace for shortages as vaccination deadline looms

YakTriNews KAPP-KVEW 11 October, 2021 - 04:22pm

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Hospital leaders across Washington fear that some regions will face severe staffing shortages at medical facilities as the state approaches its cut-off for healthcare workers to get vaccinated.

During a Monday morning briefing from the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA), CEO Cassie Sauer confirmed that 88% of the state’s healthcare workers are fully vaccinated ahead of the October 18 deadline.

However, staffing levels are already lower than state officials would feel comfortable with. She mentioned that some areas with particularly low vaccination rates will have to roll back certain healthcare services.

“Staffing is tight in hospitals, so any loss of staff is a big deal, and there are some places with particularly low vaccination rates that will need to curtail services,” Sauer said. “There have been considerations of closing down or really limiting outpatient services; that there will be longer wait times for services, we could see some caps on inpatient admissions.”

Per vaccination metrics from the Washington DOH, eight of the state’s 39 counties remain under a 50% vaccination rate for the section of the population that is eligible to be inoculated. By this stage, that includes everyone age 12 and older. Many of these counties span the Eastern edge of the state including Columbia, Asotin, Garfield, Whitman, Pend Orielle, Stevens, and Ferry Counties.

As for the Tri-Cities region, Franklin County ranks 26th in terms of vaccine initiation at 60.1% of the eligible population. In the neighboring Benton County, 61.1% of the eligible population has initiated vaccination to date.

Whether this leads to a significant rollback in staffing for Tri-Cities are healthcare and long-term care facilities is yet to be seen. However, the area is experiencing a much lower 14-day case rate than it held onto through the second half of the Summer into early Fall.

Washington state as a whole is still suffering more deaths than hospital officials are comfortable with.

“The death rate remains high. We have 15-to-20 deaths a day in Washington state from COVID,” Sauer said. ” That’s lower than it was a couple weeks ago, but that would be as if a medium-sized jet was crashing in SeaTac or Spokane every week; or if a duck boat was crashing every day.”

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These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources so we can measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.

These cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

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