There’s no doubt that hospital workers have been hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Mass firings have left many state hospitals lacking healthcare workers, and they’re calling in the National Guard to assist in staff shortages.
Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire, and you guessed it. New York has all had to call in the National Guard because the Covid-19 vaccine mandates have left them without enough healthcare workers to sustain their patient flow. Yes, there has been an uptick in COVID-19 cases, but the slight uptick isn’t the reason for the need for more assistance.
Indiana COVID-19 cases have risen 47%, and six-member teams have been sent in 2-week rotations to most Indiana University Health hospitals. The only hospital that hasn’t been affected and won’t require assistance is Riley Children’s Hospital. Children just aren’t affected by COVID-19 as adults, making the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for children useless and possibly more harmful than the virus itself.
In Maine, Governor Janet Mills announced that she was sending up to 75 more state National Guard members to serve nonclinical roles because of capacity issues. Joel Botler, MD, CMO of a Portland-based Maine Medical Center, said that there have been several times lately that the most prominent hospital “has had no critical care beds available.”
In New Hampshire, the same nonclinical care will be given by 70 National Guard members. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said that FEMA sent a 24-person team to facilities to help.
New York is another beast. Around 34,000 healthcare workers have been fired or put on leave since mid-October. Approximately 4,081 are inactive, and New York Governor Kathy Hochul is sending 120 National Guard troops to nursing homes that need help. On top of that, 32 hospitals have stopped nonurgent procedures. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, “The state defined limited capacity as below 10% staffed bed capacity, or as determined by the health department based on regional and healthcare utilization factors.”
The important thing to note from these states is that max capacity doesn’t mean that every bed is full. Honor Health says, “Hospitals have a certain number of licensed beds, staff, and physicians for patient care. When capacity is reached, it can mean that all their beds are full and that their staff and physicians are caring for the maximum number of patients recommended.”
With lawsuits the way they are, if hospitals stretched their capacity to fill their beds with no concern for their staff’s ability to care for patients, any death or serious injury due to lack of care would fall on the hospital.
It leads to hospitals dropping the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. John Derse, a Mercer Healthcare industry leader, spoke with CBS12 News to explain some of the factors in these decisions.
Derse said, “Even a loss of a few people in healthcare today is much more problematic than it’s ever been. The industry is having a heck of a time dealing with turnover.”
He described the COVID-19 vaccine mandates as “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Nancy Lindell, a spokesperson for Mission Health in Asheville, North Carolina, said, “Before the CMS action creating a mandate, as part of HCA Healthcare, Mission Health had encouraged our colleagues to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and made vaccines readily available, but we had not mandated vaccinations. Because recent federal court decisions have resulted in the CMS mandate being put on hold indefinitely, we have paused our vaccine requirement.”
It’s not only the COVID-19 vaccine mandates that have caused a loss in healthcare workers. Many have resigned, whether with the anticipation of the mandate or for their own decision. It’s unsettling that people are pushing for the COVID-19 vaccine mandates after the industry has lost so many workers as it is.