Some Hospitals Are Ditching Vaccine Mandates

There has been an 'exodus' of nurses in recent months
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2021 1:19 PM CST
Short-Staffed Hospitals Are Dropping Vaccine Mandates
A dose of a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at Lurie Children's hospital, Nov. 5, 2021, in Chicago.   (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Some hospitals facing staff shortages and surges in COVID cases have decided that unvaccinated workers are better than no workers. Hospital operators, including some of America's largest, have been dropping vaccine mandates to retain or attract workers, the Wall Street Journal reports. President Biden's workplace vaccine mandate has been frozen in court since last month and the American Hospital Association estimates that only around 42% of US hospitals currently have COVID vaccine mandates in place, despite studies that link higher vaccination rates to fewer COVID deaths at health facilities including nursing homes.

Wade Symons at consulting firm Mercer tells the Journal that the health-care industry has seen a "mass exodus" of thousands of nurses who don't want to get vaccinated, and facilities without mandates "could be a magnet for those people." HCA, Advent, and Tenet are among the hospital operators that suspended vaccine mandates after the court decision last month. Others have kept theirs in place, including Kaiser Permanente, which fired 352 employees last week. Some operators say they were short-staffed even before the pandemic and it would be devastating to lose large numbers of employees over vaccine mandates.

John Palmer with the Ohio Hospital Association says several hospital systems in the state have suspended mandates while they wait to see how court cases involving the federal mandate play out. He tells WOSU that vaccination rates are high among hospital employees. For those that remain unvaccinated, hospitals are looking at increasing COVID testing requirements for workers dealing with patients and restricting areas where employees can go. "Those are some of the precautions that hospitals are going to be looking at doing and then obviously waiting on the outcome of what happens at these lawsuits and where hospitals, as employers, can make decisions," Palmer says. (Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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