Possible revisions coming to vaccine mandate for Colorado healthcare workers

Coronavirus

COLORADO — Healthcare workers are now being fired for not following the state vaccine mandate.

Of UCHealth’s 26,500 employees statewide, 119 employees, less than 0.5% of our workforce, did not receive one of the three available COVID-19 vaccines or receive a medical or religious exemption. Employment for these 119 employees is being terminated. This includes 32 employees in the southern Colorado region. Some who work in other healthcare facilities are concerned they could be next.

Colorado Hospital Association said there could be a revision to the emergency ruling this month to allow for medical and religious exemptions or for those who hire people that aren’t fully vaccinated yet. Many healthcare systems are waiting until the end of October to make their final decisions. There are different timelines at work with the state’s mandate along with each individual’s healthcare system’s mandates.

“We have seen some drafts of some revisions that CDPHE may recommend that the board consider for the emergency rule and that would including lowering a facilities compliance rate from 100% to 90%, which would be in line with our other vaccine mandate like with our influenza vaccine,” Senior Director of Communication for Colorado Hospital Association Cara Welch said.

A recent study said one in five healthcare workers have left the medical field during the pandemic due to stress and burnout. Healthcare facilities are also seeing workers go to other areas where they might get paid better or there is more of a need for them.

“Right now absolutely staffing is our top concern,” Welch said. “I would say that the mandate is really just one piece of what we are facing with our staffing.”

Colorado Hospital Association represents nearly every healthcare system in the state so more than 100 hospitals and health systems. They said the state board of health is meeting on October 21 to consider some revisions to the vaccine mandate.

“So there is a lot of uncertainty right now and some of it has to do with and we do have some revisions coming later in October,” Welch added.

Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo said due to staffing shortages, bed capacity, and a rise of COVID-19 cases certain non-life-threatening surgeries will be delayed. Parkview Medical Center said due to the increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and staff shortage in various departments, the health system must utilize resources where most needed. They have begun to slow down elective procedures that require a hospital bed and monitor them on a case-by-case basis.

“Our hospital bed capacity is very tight right now. We are being proactive and cautious with elective procedures as we work diligently every day to care for our community.  Along with the increase in COVID-19 patients, we have also experienced a great need for other services.  Our hope is that all service lines remain open and fully functioning, but we will only do so if patient care can be done safely and is staffed appropriately, stated Leslie Barnes, President, and CEO of Parkview Health System.

As of Monday, 20% of their staff have not been vaccinated. Parkview employee and partner vaccine mandate goes into effect on November 1, 2021.

“We still urge Coloradans to seek care when they need it, part of what we are seeing in our hospitals are people who may have delayed care or put off preventive care over the course of the pandemic and now they are coming in in a much acute condition,” Welch said.

Colorado Hospital Association is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated to communities safe. There are many healthcare systems that have not made a decision and are waiting until the end of October to do so.

Centura Health, in compliance with the state’s vaccination policy, submitted its vaccination and exemption data on Friday, October 1, 2021. We will continue to work across our connected ecosystem to ensure we meet the additional deadlines set forth by the state.  

Centura Health Statement

The state is required to post online the data from each health system and their staff’s vaccination status, that information has not been posted yet but should be in a couple of days.

UCHealth’s top priority is the safety of our patients, visitors and everyone who works in our facilities. To increase safety and minimize the spread of COVID-19, all staff members and providers must now be vaccinated or receive an approved medical or religious exemption. 

Any of those leaving UCHealth employment are welcome – and encouraged – to re-apply for their positions should they decide to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and wish to return.

Despite the loss of these employees, UCHealth’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement has helped to improve staffing. With broad vaccination rates, fewer employees are testing positive for COVID-19 and needing to be out of work while they recover.

No hospital wants to lose valued employees, but we know vaccines save lives and increase safety for everyone. We appreciate our staff members and providers who have chosen to be vaccinated to protect their family members, coworkers and our patients. Our dedicated health care workers are improving the health of Colorado’s communities during what has been an extremely difficult time for everyone in health care.

To ensure that we have the safest possible environment for our patients, visitors and health care workers, any employee who received an approved vaccine exemption will be required to be tested for COVID-19 twice each week, starting the week of Oct. 3. The tests are a condition of employment, and employees are responsible for scheduling them. UCHealth will cover the cost for testing.

Dan Weaver, UCHealth Communications Vice President

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